by Samantha Dorian
In today’s world we have grown accustomed to hundreds of interruptions every day—text messages, pings on our phones for social media notifications and more—requiring that we relearn the tools for concentration through yoga, meditation and mindfulness practices. It’s no wonder that simple solutions to our fragmentation and distraction can often be overlooked, one of them being to put down the electronic device and step outside. Take a deep breath. Look around. Listen to the wind. Hear the leaves rustle; they sound like water. Or listen to nothingness—silence—if it can be found.
Sit for a moment on a rock and feel the cold of the stone beneath you; look around and notice the textures of the bark of a tree. Notice patterns in clouds and reflections in small pools. Take this time to create the mental and emotional space for slowing down and experience nature in real time, in the present moment, unmediated by video or audio, just as it is—simple, beautiful and complete.
Some of us find ourselves wishing we could take a break and just walk away from all the distractions and interruptions. It’s helpful to remember that we are the masters of our own designs, and we can indeed decide to take a break and step outside. The world will not collapse in our brief absence, nor will we miss some bit of trivia that might unhinge our lives. Rather, when we return we find that we are recharged, more effective and better able to focus.
Why is it so difficult to let go? Employment expectations, performance anxieties, pleasure principles and pressures to remain in touch at long distances with family and friends all bring stress to our lives. Most difficult is letting go of the devices that we carry, but all the more necessary. Perhaps the endorphin rushes are becoming frighteningly addictive when we click on and surf through our “Likes”. The antidote is to unplug from our electronic devices, unplug from the media, unplug from social media and all things media-related.
However, admittedly, a difficulty in regaining a connection to nature is making that first decision to step out into it. The hesitation to reconnect with the natural world can be accompanied by the mistaken thought that one must plan something dramatic in order to appreciate nature (climb a mountain or visit Tibet). However, simplicity is best, as Henry David Thoreau himself urged. Simply unplug and step outside—with your hands truly free.
When we allow ourselves to slow down and witness natural wonders we begin to transform ourselves. The human desire to connect with the world outside and beyond our cultural constructs has been proven time and again. The colors of the seasons—the light greens of Spring, the saturated colors of Summer, the warm hues of Autumn and the cool blues of Winter—are all part of our own rhythms. Regaining access to these rhythms helps us in our daily relationships, our productivity as well as our restfulness.
When we slow down, unplug and observe the present moment, when we regain the awareness of the fact that our disconnection is artificial and that the connection with the natural world is what is indeed real, we then gain an understanding of who we are and where we are heading. We then gain a deeper insight into ourselves and our connections with others.
Samantha Dorian holds an MDiv from Harvard Divinity School, is an Activities Therapist at Butler Hospital, in Providence, and a member of the creative team at Avalon Design Group, LLC.