8 Ways Nature Can Shape Your Life
“Nature does not hurry, yet everything is accomplished.” – Lao Tzu
I was thumbing through a book when this quote caught my eye and the ancient teaching stopped me in my tracks.
There is an omnipresent sense of time passing in this modern world. The current social climate is bustling; we are constantly working towards deadlines and are chastised for wasting time. With places to be, people to see, and things to do, coupled with the constant bombardment of advertising and the relentless storm of social media, it is unsurprising that peoples stress levels are at an all-time high.
Frequently, we feel we must achieve such-and-such by a specific time and this feeling of urgency often has a negative impact. For example, believing that you should have met and married the love of your life by a certain age because you feel it is the 'norm' can result in an unhappy relationship, burdened with pressure and expectancy rather than letting the love blossom and the relationship develop organically, in whatever form and time that takes.
The good news is this sense of having to do something is a self-imposed pressure that can be controlled from within. Using nature as an example, I have outlined 8 easy steps to achieving a happier, healthier life.
1. Understand Your Place Within Your Cycle
Nature accomplishes everything through self-sustaining cycles. It is a well-oiled system, where everything works harmoniously and follows natural patterns. For example, plant seeds in spring, they will grow in summer, harvested in autumn and hide and rest throughout the winter months. We do not worry that the plant has withered in the colder climate, understanding that it needs respite before sprouting again. We should take this nurturing approach with ourselves, and understand that there is a time and place for everything and we must recognize and adapt to the cyclical stages within our own lives.
2. Enjoy Life at a Slower Pace
Slowing down our daily pace helps us to appreciate each moment in our lives. Start by inhaling and exhaling deeply using diaphragmatic breathing (or breathing into your stomach). Eat food slower, savouring the flavours, textures and taste of each bite. Slow down your walking pace so you can take in your surroundings, find something new in your daily commute, smell flowers, watch the sunset. Try to find at least one moment of stillness every day, if only for a couple of minutes. Focus on slowing your breath, pace, and thoughts, and respectfully and calmly allow time to pass.
Life doesn't always go the way we planned and we face new challenges on a daily basis, but don't let that dissuade you from your course. There is an image of a piano that has a tree growing straight through it. Nature doesn't allow obstacles to inhibit its existence. I'm not suggesting that blundering on blindly is the best way to achieve success, but we can learn from nature to adapt to difficulties and setbacks, finding new ways to work around or even working the problem into achieving our goals. Stay focused and determined in the face of adversity, as your dedication and tenacity will pay off eventually.
4. Take Time Out of the Equation
In the same way that you wouldn't stare at a seed you've planted waiting for it to bud and bloom, do not analyse your actions and achievements expecting significant change constantly. Nothing has to happen at a particular time. A friend of mine recently went on a solo gap-year travelling around the world, at age 77, and is loving it! Do not allow yourself to feel that you must achieve milestones at certain times, if ever. It is okay if you never have children, or if you obtain a university degree in your sixties, or prefer staying in with a mug of tea and sudoku than going out clubbing in your twenties. Nobody and nothing else can dictate or judge your decisions, so take the steps towards your own goals at whatever pace you need and do not consider the time it is taking you to complete your journey.
Winter is a time for most of nature to hibernate and recuperate. Treat yourself like you would a plant that you are nurturing: Ensure you are drinking enough water, eating wholesome, healthy food, and that you get enough rest. It is completely acceptable to prune/cut out negative energies in your life that are bringing you down, or to give yourself space from other people with your favourite foods and a duvet day. Self-care must be a priority, in whatever form it takes. Remember that not everything you do has to be working towards an end goal; you need time off in order to rest and reinvigorate yourself.
6. Focus On Your Own Path
Our current cultural climate is full of distractions that can dissuade us from our track. External influences like other people's expectations or social media can pressure us into following avenues that are not right for us or make our accomplishments feel inadequate. Respect and celebrate other people's achievements without directing guilt or judgment towards yourself because you are walking individual paths, where success manifests in different ways and each has their own separate challenges that must be overcome. Try writing down your goals and read them every day to re-affirm your intentions.
Also, stay off social media! This isn't an innovative life hack, but it is true nonetheless. Social media often presents an edited highlights reel, capturing people's most ecstatic or proud moments because that's the interesting stuff; nobody cares about the mundane and menial daily tasks. It's likely that someone who looks like they're 'living their best life' is also worrying that they aren't doing enough, or concerned about their image, or stressed about maintaining a collected façade when realistically the selfies they are posting took ages to get the right angle and lighting, which they will upload from their sofa whilst wearing pajamas. Bear this in mind if you catch yourself comparing your life with an airbrushed presentation of someone else's.
We can all benefit from a helping hand from time to time, and it is a wonderful opportunity if we can boost other people, loved ones and strangers alike. It is not a sign of weakness to ask others for support, in fact it is a key aspect of success. Nature relies on interconnectivity for a harmonious survival. For example, bees use nectar from flowers to make their honey whilst simultaneously spreading pollen from plant to plant, so both species stay alive and thrive. Appreciate the complementary nature of human interaction and find power in collaborating with your peers.
8. Make Steady Steps Forward.
Nature accomplishes as much as it does because it makes steady progress. You may have heard the phrase 'Rome wasn't built in a day'. Do not feel obliged to take on too many tasks or rush a job because this will only result in stress and poor performance. If you want to run a marathon, you train every day and build up stamina bit by bit. Any step forward, no matter how small, is still a step in the right direction, so plod along, do not hurry as everything will be accomplished.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
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© 2019 Phoebe Hopwood