Nature, is the second topic covered in the blog series; The 9 Environments of You
In today’s world it’s easy for us to forget we’re part of nature. As a species, by virtue of intelligence, determination, and opposable thumbs we’ve managed to overcome myriad natural obstacles to lead lives of comfort and convenience. While other species fight and scrabble to sustain themselves, we’re perched atop the food chain so securely many of us take our position for granted. All the ease and comfort we’ve carved out for ourselves makes it easy to forget we’re still part of nature.
This forgetting can manifest itself in a tension or discomfort that, like our connection to nature, lurks just beneath the surface of our consciousness. At its heart it is a denial of reality, and living in that type of denial prevents us from being true to ourselves and bringing our best self to any given situation. This is one of the many reasons we need to maintain a conscious connection to nature.
As with any of the other nine areas of you, each of us has a different level of need when it comes to making and maintaining a connection to nature. Some are avid outdoors people, the type who might climb mountains for their vacation, or spend a long weekend kayaking and camping on a river. Others are regular hikers who frequently spend a Saturday hiking in the woods. And some of us have less expansive needs and find it sufficient to take a walk on the beach or in a park on a regular basis, or keep a pet or some plants at home.
While keeping pets or cultivating plants might seem like an insignificant effort to create and maintain a connection to nature, for busy urban people it’s a lot more efficient than climbing mountains or rafting rivers. Another advantage is with pets and plants, we have daily contact and provide daily care, and we engage in the cycle of life, which helps us maintain a healthy perspective on our everyday worries and concerns.
Most of us live in a very artificial world, where we easily elude or shield ourselves from the forces of nature. But the reality is we’re a part of nature and maintaining an awareness of that is a huge asset, even if most of our focus on a daily basis is on successfully navigating our artificial world.
Body, is the first topic covered in the blog series; The 9 Environments of You
In times of upheaval, whether it’s financial, professional, or personal, the best asset anyone can have is a strong sense of self. Life can throw a lot of difficulties our way, but if we have a realistic perspective of our strengths and weaknesses, we’re more likely to make choices that allow us to maximize our potential and achieve success. A person with deep self-knowledge can get through just about anything and land on their feet — and is more likely to choose the best direction to begin moving again.
The most basic part of the “self” is our body. Everyone has a body and their own unique relationship to their body. For many in our society, this is complicated by pressures to conform to standards that for many people are not realistic. The chiseled abdominal muscles of male underwear models or the voluptuous yet slender figures of their female counterparts are wholly unrealistic forms for almost everyone over the age of twenty-five, and even for those in the bloom of youth. It’s easy to get caught up in the image of our body, but it’s a lot more useful to focus on the actual experience of being in our body. Each of us has been dealt a genetic hand and our job is to play that hand to the best of our ability so that we can be as happy and successful as possible.
What do you like to do? What types of exercise to you enjoy? What are you good at? Are you athletic? Do you have exceptional fine motor skills? Perhaps someone has pointed out that you move with a particular sense of grace. Or maybe your asset is, on the surface, more mundane; perhaps you are able to stand on your feet all day without experiencing discomfort. Do you prefer to be in motion throughout the day, or do you prefer to be sedentary? We all have different physical needs and being aware of what our particular physical needs and attributes are is vital information when we’re choosing a path in life. A person who likes to be on the move does not want to embark on a career path that leads to sitting at a desk all day, even if it’s more lucrative than something their body and temperament is more suited for. And obviously someone who is more sedentary by nature doesn’t want to be on their feet all day.
Often our careers make demands on us that don’t necessarily line up with our ideal relationship to our bodies. These are the conflicts upon which the fitness industry is built. If this is a compromise you’re making in your work life, it’s worth exploring what type of work or position could you move towards that would eliminate or at least reduce that compromise? Any opportunity to merge your needs and nature with your day-to-day work life is a victory for you because it frees up time (and money) you would otherwise spend meeting that need outside your work hours.
For those of us less physically oriented by nature, whose bodies don’t demand to be in motion all day or don’t feel the need for regular physical exertion, we sometimes need to create small opportunities for minor exertion throughout our day simply for the sake of our long term health. Walking a few blocks instead of hopping in the car to run an errand is always a good choice, as is taking a flight of stairs or two rather than taking the elevator. Working these micro measures into our daily return can have substantial long term benefits, and often can produce more immediate benefits, like sleeping better and keeping off excess weight.
We are in our bodies all day, and as much as we focus on people’s faces and words in our daily interactions, we also communicate a lot through our physical presence and movements. A person who is comfortable in their body, no matter the shape, is going to make a more favorable impression than someone who is killing themselves to lose weight, or is morbidly obese. Take stock of who you are, what your relationship is with your body, and ask yourself how you can create a life that meets your physical needs and enhances your comfort within your physical self. Some religious or spiritual practices teach that the soul is contained in the body, that we are essentially “trapped” in our skin, but I view this relationship in a more opportunistic fashion. We all have a body and no matter what shape it is, we can use it as an asset to make our lives more meaningful, successful, and fun.