In Praise of Nature
When you really need to soothe your soul, take yourself outdoors. And don’t forget to pay attention.
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If you visit the beach at sunrise on any given day, you might find Cheyenne Luzader watching the sun poke its head above the waves. “I go at all times of the year, even in the middle of winter,” says the Lewes resident. “It’s my favorite time to meditate.”
When tourists are scarce, she takes a handheld drum to create a rhythmic mantra. Like the drum, the regular sound of the waves can lull her heartbeat and affect her breathing. “Our bodies get in tune to the rhythm of nature,” says Luzader, coordinator of Integrative Health-Complementary and Alternative Medicine at Beebe Medical Center.
Indeed, watching a sunrise or sunset, drifting along in a canoe or hiking in a state park is an effective stress-buster. Time seemingly stops as nature renews your spirit and instills a sense of well-being and wonder.
The link between nature and spirituality has a long history. Ancient European religions—now known as Paganism, from the Latin paganus, meaning “country dweller”—incorporated tributes to nature. Because rural people depended on nature for both livelihood and sustenance, nature’s cycles determined celebrations.
In February, poet and scholar Philip Newell—known for his work in Celtic spirituality—led a retreat, “One: the Spirit, the Earth, and the Human Soul” at Christ Church in Greenville that drew a capacity crowd. Newell is the former warden of Iona Abbey in the Western Isles of Scotland, “one of the places where the veil is thin between this world and the next,” says Steve Steinwedel of the Community for Integrative Learning, which organized the event. “So many traditions think God is just as much alive in the natural world as anywhere else.”
The Japanese religion Shinto involves the worship of spirits, known as kami, some of which represent natural objects, including Mount Fuji and the sun. Peace and happiness are possible, according to Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh, if we can only quiet our thinking enough to come back to the present and notice the blue sky, the child’s smile and the beautiful sunrise.
For many, being out in nature inspires a sense of the divine. “I always felt closer to a god spirit on the beach in the early morning,” says Linda Hall of Wilmington. She recalls walking with her father, who would tell her, “Let’s see what the ocean brought in last night.”
“It felt like a holy place,” she says of the beach. “I was walking along quietly with the person I loved so much. It made a special connection.” Her first poem pondered whether her soul was as eternal as the sea. She remembers floating in the water, looking up at a blue sky, and saying, “Thank you.”
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