This morning I was walking in my neighborhood and stopped to admire the view from one of the few undeveloped lots. It's a steep grassy hillside that slopes down away from the road and provides a view of trees, hills and houses in the distance.
Several swallows flitted and swooped back and forth in circles close to the grass, catching bugs, I assumed. As I stood there admiring the swallows’ flight, one of them flew in slow circles closer and closer to me.
Included In a New Way
I just stood there, breathing quietly and enjoying the playful attention. I realized that I had not been completely still in Nature and just watched it and enjoyed it for a long time. I was usually walking through it or driving past it, but not stopping to just be in it.
I watched the easy, graceful flight, the joyful turns and flutters and soaring movements of the birds for a few minutes. I could see the gray wings and the patterns of blue and white on their little backs. I noticed what was happening in my body while I watched the swallows dip and dive, and particularly the sensations of the one flying circles around me.
I was filled with a sense of renewal and joy. One would think “out of nowhere”, but it wasn’t. It was from these birds, and the sensation of watching them, and, it seemed, something they were bringing me. I felt included in Life in a beautiful and unusual way.
Of Course, Nature Heals
Was I making it up? Perhaps. But, I guess I’d say, who cares? Does it really matter whether the healing comes from the birds, Nature, or from my conscious (or imagined) connection to them? Or all those things? Because I felt better. My body felt better. My soul felt eased.
That’s a lot when you’re in pain.
Do birds have healing power, or Nature as a whole? Now that I ask that question, it almost seems silly to doubt it.
We are Nature too, and I think our nervous systems were made for being closer to the earth, walking barefoot on it, sleeping out under the stars, breathing fresh air, listening to bird song, and watching the movements of animals and letting that inform our own bodies.
And I think we have discounted the impact that not being close to Nature has on our bodies and our pain levels. I’ve asked this question before: are we creating more pain in our bodies on the whole (especially inexplicable pain) because we have forced our nervous system to conform to unnatural rhythms, cut off from its natural regulator (Nature) and a very real, visceral connection with the natural world?
On A Path to Well Being
A Native American friend and teacher healed her cancer many years ago by spending about a week sitting for hours every day under a waterfall in Brazil, letting the natural force of the water wash everything away, including all the grief and sadness of her life, which she allowed to freely flow from her into the water.
Tomorrow, I think I’ll drive to the woods and walk barefoot on the earth. Maybe I’ll do an experiment with pain levels and the amount of time I spend not only outside, but truly in tune with, listening to, and appreciating the movements, sounds, energies, and patterns of Nature.
Who knows? Maybe bird songs actually heal. Maybe dirt does. Maybe the sun is an elixir, and so is the moonlight if taken in with a kind of respectful, quiet, attuned and loving attention.
And maybe if those things don't completely heal, I will at least have a greater sense of well being along this road, and that's worth a lot too. I’ll keep you posted.
Sarah Anne Shockley is the author of The Pain Companion: Everyday Wisdom For Living With and Moving Beyond Chronic Pain and Living Better While Living With Pain.
She is a regular columnist for Pain News Network. Visit her at www.thepaincompanion.com for resources for people in chronic pain and more information on her work.