2023 has started with an intensity and busyness that can easily leave one feeling fragmented and exhausted. I often notice the effects of this manic-busy-capitalist life which shows up as tension building in my body, or the urgent impulse to complete the never ending to-do-list. Sometimes when I catch the stress building, I often (but not always!) pause, take a deep breath, look out my window and take a moment to observe the life around me. And then, instead of beating myself up for not doing it all, I gently remind myself that I am a human, and deeply part of this majestic web of life – not separate from it, and therefore also bound by its rhythms and cycles. And just like all the other creatures, cycles, and seasons, I too need time for intense activity, creativity, and movement and equally important, times of rest, slowness, and reflection.
Life reminds me that it is made up of a fine balance of both doing and resting (and often they are enfolded within one another). The seasons cycle through periods of growth (summer and spring) and rest (winter and autumn). Birds display their busy, noisy selves at dawn, which reduces throughout the day and is quiet during the night. Even trees, if observed closely, have periods of intense growth, flowering, and fruiting, followed a period of rest. The animal world has periods of stress (usually when there is a direct threat), yet there is also a great deal of quieter time for relaxation, play and foraging.
As humans, we emerge from the natural world and are inherently part of it just as much as the birds, trees, flowers, and butterflies. Yet it is easy to see ourselves as separate from or even beyond nature, and our modern urban lives reinforce this [false] belief. We intellectually understand that we as humans require fresh air, clean water, and healthy food to survive and thrive – all provided by nature, and many under threat due to the impacts of climate change. As we feel these impacts, the myth of separation is getting more difficult to believe.
Indigenous cultures all around the world (including Australian First Nation peoples), understand the inherent truth of our connection with the web of the earth community and our responsibility to care for it. Nature not only supports and is responsible for our very survival, but also has inherent wisdom and ways of being that we can all recognise and learn from. Deep observation of nature helps me remember new ways of living that are life affirming and enhancing. If there is an aspect of my life that is blocked, stuck, or causing us distress, observing the patterns and cycles of nature helps me realign to more a more helpful and balanced path.
Are you also feeling fragmented or that life is too full or chaotic? It may show up as tension in your body, home, or relationships. This hyper-manic-busy-lifestyle is a typical challenge that most people living in the modern world can’t easily escape from (therefore it’s a cultural and social problem, not an individual one!). But – with a little attention, we can also resist this pull individually and collectively. By observing the natural world with careful attention, we can easily notice that this way of living is out of alignment with natural cycles and rhythms, and perhaps even make the micro adjustments needed to come back into balance with life.