Experiencing Your Body as Part of Nature
"I just want to run away and be outside in nature", I said.
"Can you find your nature within?" She said.
Foraging has been a delightful journey for me: an excuse to spend a lot of time outdoors and eat good, natural foods. Though these are the words that started me on parallel exploration of what my human nature truly is. The concept of my nature within got me curious about the organism of my body. I started wondering how to connect to my nature inside as well as nature outside of me. There are many ways to do this, and here I share a little of my own journey.
The Separation of Human and Nature
Earthling, earthly being, natura, natal, native, birth, humus, ground, of the earth, humble.
These are some of the origins of the word human - born of the earth. Speak to any indigenous (meaning living naturally or always lived in a place) person or tribe, and their connection to nature is innate, unquestioned and an integral part of their existence. Though for many of us living now, this connection doesn't come naturally. Instead, it can feel alien, or an 'interesting' concept, but just an idea. We have transitioned as a society from forager to farmer, from soil to concrete, from manual to mechanised, from heart to head. Our relationship to ourselves and our surroundings have changed. It's been a slow progress with many results, one of which is a sense of separation from nature.
For each of us this journey will be slightly different. Influenced by our early experiences in nature, our natural disposition and perhaps how strong we feel the heartbeat of our ancestors inside us.
My Own Connection to Nature
At various points in my life, I have experienced my body as part of nature. In Kathmandu, I remember sensing the freshly carved out roads in the mountain-side as if they were scars on my own body. As a student, I remember walking all day in the Devonshire countryside and feeling at one with the trees and leaves I walked alongside. Sea swimming, I've let myself commune with the water, let my mind dissolve away and just 'be'. Be nature: together with the water, land and birds settling nearby. Foraging is also a way for me to deeply immerse myself in my home: planet earth.
These have been poignant moments for me, where distinct boundaries between me and the environment have disappeared. Where an affinity with my surroundings and myself have teetered on bliss (sometimes), oneness, and sharp reality. However, I have also had many moments when I feel like I am an observer of nature, detached and an outsider. Sometimes because I'm in a new, unfamiliar land. Though sometimes, simply because I'm a product of this time, culture and lifestyle.
Experiencing - Grounding - Going Within - Going Out
It was Linda Hartley, who's words invited me to; 'find my nature within'. It was Linda who helped birth me into a new relationship with my body and the wild surroundings I love to reside in. I spent 4 years intensely training with Linda (IBMT dip) and over 10 years in all. She created the Institute of Integrative Bodywork and Movement Therapy (IBMT) where I learnt about the substance of my own body, from fluids, organs, bones, skin to nervous system and beyond.
Nature (the outdoors, natural environment, the landscape, animals and plants) have been one of my go-to places when the **** hits the fan. When life hurts, I know that mother earth can hold what I cannot. Nature calms me, invigorates me, helps me focus, let go, get perspective and find joy again. It's good medicine for me! Yet these invitations and guidance encouraged me to find a different way.
Body and Earth
Through IBMT training I started to live more fully in the organic nature of my body. IBMT mainly teaches somatics (soma means to experience the body from within) and combines teaching through science (the new way) and experience (the old way). Hands on bodywork and movement taught me and fellow students how to fully embody the tissues, organs and layers of matter that makes up the human body. It was gutsy stuff! I found my body and awareness changing and I started to feel safer and more present in the substance of my nature.
I also trained with renown dancer Andrea Olsen and experiential anatomy teacher Caryn McHose on their Body and Earth training. It was in Penpynfarch in Wales, where Andrea reminded us that by the end of the week, the air, water and food of the land would literally become our bodies. Through simply eating the veggies in the veg plot, drinking the water from the spring and nourishing ourselves from the fresh Welsh air. The oxygen would feed our blood and cells, the water renew our blood and bodily fluids and the vitamin and minerals build our bones, hair, skin, immune systems and whole human organism. It was such a simple statement and deeply profound to me.
Being a Forager in the Landscape
So, in the words of John Muir, I now find that going out into nature, can also help me find my human nature within. I realise, more deeply, that I am made out of the substance of this earth. The teachers and venues I quote here have helped guide me through a very unique experience of my body as nature. I am eternally grateful to all of them. Previously I have written about Foraging as a Way to Feel Connected, yet here I wanted to share a slightly different angle.
“I only went out for a walk and finally concluded to stay out till sundown, for going out, I found, was really going in.” John Muir
If you enjoyed this read you may want to follow the #mindfulwildforager on instagram. I'd also love to hear about your own experiences in nature (inside and out).