By connecting to our hearts we can find greater connection and happiness in our lives, the following article explores how through nature we have the ability to opening our hearts to greater connection, happiness, joy and abundance in our lives.
The Connection Paradox
Many of us feel constantly in a state of stress and anxiety, often heightened by technology that was meant to make our lives simpler and easier. To cap this off, this very technology that has brought us the internet and social media to keep us ‘connected’ has been a double edged sword. The constant barrage of communication has overwhelmed us more than made us feel ‘closer’ to those around us. We constantly check our social media accounts to see what others are up to and there is a mild panic that sets in when we cannot access our account. We have been addicted to the ‘new’ and novelty and have a constant hunger for more. It is when we are able to disconnect from this artificial virtual world and connect to the world around us that we can have the opportunity to experience profound emotions.
Connecting Through Nature
This article explores mindfulness from a different perspective and has been inspired by recent walks into nature that we are so lucky to have around us. Heidi and I live on the Gold Coast and we are blessed with World Heritage national parks of breathtaking mountain views and ancient rainforests and stunning beaches that are some of the best in the world, not to mention islands that are a stone’s throw away from the glittering lights of the glitter strip. All these places can make you feel like you are a million miles away.
It is the disconnection that is possible with limited to no reception to mobile and internet technology that gives us an opportunity to disconnect from our minds and connect with nature and our hearts.
The Fullness of Mind
Mindfulness has been a catchphrase that has become very popular in recent years to describe a state of being where we are present to what is right in front of us rather than lost in thoughts. I have always had a problem with this word as it reinforces that we need to be ‘mind-full’. That is, ‘full of mind.’ When in fact, what we are striving for is to get ‘out of our minds’ and become ‘mindless’ for a while. Both these phrases have negative connotations, yet this is the state we are aiming for in ‘mindfulness’.
What I really think that we really are after, is greater connection with ourselves and the world around us. This can be achieved if we can let go of the paradigm we have been taught that the seat of intelligence is accessed through our minds. We are taught that our brains are where decisions are made, that ’emotion can cloud our judgement’ and that we need to use ‘rational thinking’ in order to make the right decisions and be happy.
Ancient cultures have known since the dawn of humanity that our hearts are the seat of greater intelligence. Emotions are not a negative female behaviour that clouds clear thinking. Women it is time to let ’emotions get the best of you’. For when you do, ‘you will become the best of you’ that you can give to the world and yourself.
When we ‘think’ through our brains we are using linear thought – past, present future. We also tend to see the world around us as being ‘mechanical’. Rational thoughts ‘ration’ our thinking and dissects our world into bite sized bits of information that destroys the holistic view of our world. We are taught to break down our world into ‘facts’ which in fact may not be correct.
The Heart Switch
This is where by switching our thinking from our heads to our hearts that we can begin to really understand and connect to ourselves and the world around us. For too long we have been taught, (both women AND men) to not be so ’emotional’, to stick to the facts and leave feelings out of it. By getting lost in our thoughts we have lost the heart of whom we really are.
We are natural beings and we are connected to a bigger world than we occupy in our minds. Everything is interconnected, and when we give ourselves the opportunity to disconnect from our mind and connect to nature we discover the heart of whom we truly are. Nature provides a gateway to rediscovering ourselves, our place in the world and how we are all one through our connection.
Earth Heart Connection
It is no surprise that the word ‘heart’ and ‘earth’ are an anagram. You can re-arrange the letters and they become each other. Our Earth and connecting to nature is the doorway to our happiness, health, well-being, abundance and frankly our survival. When we connect with nature we connect to our heart. Nature provides us with everything we need to survive – fresh water, fertile soil and sunshine to grow our food, and trees and minerals that we use to provide us with shelter and everything else we can only dream of.
Nature provides us ‘a breath of fresh air’ in a world that is filled with technology and is time based. We can easily lose track of time when we are at the foot of a waterfall surrounded by lush forest and breathing in the beauty that abounds. We forget about the dramas in our world and see how insignificant they are when we are in awe and one with nature. Running my own business and often dealing with a lot of stresses on a daily basis, connecting with nature has provided me with a deep sense of happiness, gratitude, comfort and re-ignited my senses and child-like curiosity if not creativity.
Losing Your Mind
Being in the presence of nature also connects me back to the physicality of my body. I literally ‘lose my mind’ in nature and get ‘lost in my senses’. Going for a bushwalk around every corner there is an opportunity to ‘discover’. Whether it be an ancient tree or admiring the beauty of a vine as it snakes its way up the trunk of a tree. My senses become full engaged. The primordial earthy smell of the bush or the coolness of tiny droplets of water on my skin sitting close to a waterfall engages me into the present moment. Occasionally, against convention wisdom, I walk barefoot in the bush.
Energy In Motion
One time, I had planned to go down to Byron Bay from the Gold Coast and the presence of Wollumbin (Mount Warning) across the sugar-cane landscape called me. Ill equipped with no water and wearing a pair of thongs I drove to the foot of the mountain and proceeded to climb it. Within minutes, thongs seemed like an inadequate footwear for this terrain where some parts are slippery and others rocky. I took the thongs off and walked barefoot up the mountain. Once at the top I was greeted with an incredible view that anyone who has ever been to Wollumbin would say is breath-taking in the least. From the top you lose track of time and knowing that you are at the centre of a massive extinct volcano and the distant mountains are actually the crater walls is mind boggling.
The same person who had climbed the mountain wasn’t the same person that descended. Following my heart had led me to this sacred mountain and I felt energised and full of joy. Being in my forties I forgot for a moment my age and the joy that filled me propelled me down the mountain. In fact, I ran all the way down the mountain, the pain of running over rocks didn’t stop me. At the bottom I felt an overwhelming gratitude and heart opening that even the pain of my battered and bruised feet even a week afterwards didn’t diminish this high.
Living On A High
Making that connection to your heart and walking through the gateway that nature provides can be life changing. It takes shifting your paradigm and understanding that our heart has intelligence. There is a direct link between the heart and brain where it is our heart that ultimately makes the decisions. In fact, 25% of our heart contains nerve cells – the same cells that we have in our brains. When we begin to live with heart, our level of passion and happiness increases. Stop seeing your heart as merely a mechanical pump and as somehow being disconnected to our very being. Stop thinking and start feeling and you will discover the essence of things.
I am reading an incredibly insightful book called ‘The Secret Teachings of Plants- The Intelligence of the Heart in the Direct Perception of Nature’ by Stephen Harrod Buhner. In it, Buhner describes in eloquent detail how connecting with plants which are more than static living things can help us become more heart-centred.
Trees are an open window that can take us to the heart of who we are. They have the power to help us heal and really connect to ourselves and the world around in more profound and meaningful ways than the world wide web.
Recently I read a very interesting article entitled The Intelligent Plant, that described te ‘wood wide web’ that trees in a forest use to communicate with each other and send carbon, nitrogen and water to other trees in need in this network. It mentions how trees in a forest organise themselves into networks using the underground web of mycorrhizal fungi which connects the roots of the trees in the forest. They use this network to exchange goods as well as communicate with each other.
The same article describes how “mother trees” were using the network to nourish shaded seedlings, including their offspring—which the trees can apparently recognize as kin—until they’re tall enough to reach the light.”
Trees and our natural environment I believe hold the key to help us to re-connect to our heart. Heartfulness and not mindfulness is the key finding greater joy, wellnesss, appreciation and abundance in our lives. No need to ‘ration’ or ‘rationalise’ your thoughts. Listen to your heart. Be open to listening to your heart and through nature you will discover a new freedom.
Here are some ways to start practising ‘heartfulness’:
• Be spontaneous:
Don’t ‘over think’ things. Learn to be more spontaneous. Do something out of the ordinary. Go out after work, go to work a different way. Go for a walk somewhere you haven’t been before on a whim. Go to a new restaurant and try something different to eat.
• Follow your heart:
Give your mind a rest, begin to listen to what your heart tells you. Your heart is about emotion. Follow your emotions. Some call following your heart ‘intuition’. It is an ‘inner knowing’ not clouded by thoughts. It is OK to be irrational. Some of the greatest moments stem out of being irrational.
• Spend time in nature:
Simply by being in nature we start the heart opening like the beautiful opening of a flower. You don’t have to ‘try’ you just have to ‘be’. Nature will do the rest just like when spring arrives and plants know it is time to grow.
• Lose your mind:
Simply be immersing yourself in nature you will become present to it. Your senses will begin to come alive as you take in the surrounding sights, smells, tastes and sounds. Feel the earth beneath your feet. Walk barefoot on a sandy beach. Dip your feet in the water and feel the cold embrace. Feel the energy and movement of the waves and the gritty sand underfoot. You will soon lose your mind and get lost in the sensual delight of nature caressing your body.
When you are in awe, it may be because you are standing on top of a mountain with incredible scenery or contemplating the beauty and intricate patterns of an orchid, it doesn’t take long for your heart to open up in gratitude. Gratitude is the recognition of the abundance in your world. It is the total opposite to rational thinking that rations everything by destroying it into small thoughts and reinforces scarcity in your world.
As you heart begins to open more and more you will really feel your heart felt connection not only to the natural world but to other people too. In a way, connecting with the earth not only opens your heart but brings out the kindness and compassion you feel to every living being.
You don’t have to go far to experience nature and the heart opening. Contemplating a bunch of flowers you have just purchased or picked, relaxing in a park with plants and trees is all that is needed. Even simply taking your dog for a walk. As you begin to open up you may begin to feel your mind shift too. You may begin to gain a greater appreciation of plants and trees and know within you that they hold the key to your heart.
If you would like find more connection in your life, nature provides an open door that can connect us to our heart that is more powerful and effective than human technology or social media. This weekend, go for a walk in nature. Be sure to leave your mobile phone behind or switched off to give you the opportunity to be on your own, to switch off from thoughts and to reconnect to the world around you. Having that time to disconnect from others and allowing nature to re-energise and refresh us will help you to connect with others when you return from the wild through your heart.