“When you recover or discover something that nourishes your soul and brings you joy, care enough about yourself to make room for it in your life.”
-Jean Shinoda Bolen
Last night was a beautiful November night. The sky was crystal clear, the air fresh and crispy, the wind warm and light. I arrived home at 9:00PM, got out of the car, took a deep breath in and looked up at the gorgeous starry night. I felt, with every cell in my body, an immense feeling of tranquility, of pure peace. I felt home.
Most of my life I have spent living in varying types and sizes of cities in southern Europe and Canada. My belief system was that that well-to-do, civilized people live in cities, and poor, uneducated people live in villages, generally under unfathomable conditions. Today, I understand things differently. While cities offer a variety of what some people perceive as valuable amenities, in my experience, cities lack the most critical element for living and thriving: the serenity of nature.
Over five years ago I met the man I now proudly call my husband. The first weekend I visited him in his country home “in the bush” there was a gorgeous meteor shower happening — I couldn’t believe I could witness it so clearly! I felt it was magical. I felt a deep sense of connection both to my partner, my Self, the earth, and the universe. I felt deeply the vastness of it all. During that visit, we took long walks in the majestic forest to rivers and waterfalls, hiked over spectacular hills, picked and ate wild fruit, took midnight walks out in the tranquil pitch black dark (yes, at first I was terrified of I don’t know what, but a few minutes in, I relaxed into this incredibly enjoyable experience). This was the first time the power of living in nature was revealed to me. I fell in love.
As fate would have it, he and I decided to move in together in his family home in order to finish our seemingly never-ending Master’s degrees. We lived together in this space for just under three years. During this time, I experienced life outside of the city–not in suburbia, but in the midst of the breathtaking Boreal forest, in nature. I felt a certain kind of peace and ease that I inherently knew had been missing from my life. I felt empowered, knowing I can choose where to grow my roots.
I continue to choose this particular lifestyle because it provides me with a sense of peace like no other place I’ve ever lived in before. I believe I finally found home. And in finding home, I found serenity.
It’s impossible for me to pinpoint exactly how living in nature makes me feel, but I’ll try to put my experience into words.
One thing I know for certain is that my whole being has been profoundly impacted by living in nature because it affords me the increasingly rarer opportunity to become deeply connected to the earth, and therefore, to my Self.
A Breath of Fresh Air
Ah, air, the breath of life. Breathing is the first thing we must do to survive on this planet, and the last thing we do when we leave it. The quality of the air that we breathe is undoubtedly one of the most important elements in sustaining our lives, our bodies, our beings. It is a pity so many of us do not ever get the opportunity to connect with our breath deeply, effortlessly, fully. For me, connecting with divine breath in nature has been a continuous, sweet process that, though conscious effort, has deepened over time.
What I notice when I am out in nature is the ease that I breathe with, the tranquility that comes from breathing in fresh, unpolluted air. I notice how there is a unique scent to each season, each month, and each time of day. The morning air is one of my favourites. It is more invigorating, a little cooler, it makes me feel so alive. It is the perfect air to wake up to, to make me feel part of the waking up whole. I love how the cool air tickles my skin and soothes my soul. I feel such deep connection with, and appreciation for, life.
In fall, I notice how the air smells of damp earth, reminding me of the significance of letting go, of trusting in the natural transformation that invitably unfolds. It is a powerful scent that reassures me that I am okay.
It’s strange for a Mediterranean to say, but the cool winter air is my absolute favourite. Something about the fresh, crystalline air that makes me feel so at ease. I can take beautiful deep breaths, fill my entire being with fresh prana, and feel it invigorating every cell of my body. I sit on the snow, with my snow-pants, of course, and I meditate on the opportunity afforded only to some: breathing in this refreshing, oxygen-full air.
This overwhelms me with a feeling of peace, with the fact that I simply am in the midst of it all. I am part of the whole that makes the world go round. I am part of the universe. I am here, and I bear witness to the beauty of life, by virtue of breathing in nature.
In direct opposition to where I currently live, exists civilization. It is here that I chose to engage by purchasing materials (that I cannot find used online) and working within a corporate building that recycles air. While these are choices that I’m consciously making at the moment, they are also a source of struggle for me because I am well aware of their consequences on my body, on my health, on my breath.
It should come as no surprise to anyone that the air in a rural area is less toxic than in large metropolitan cities. If you don’t trust what you know by experience and need scientific proof, Statistics Canada has that information for you.
From my personal experience though, I know that being in the city feels toxic. Getting to work exposes me to the harmful air that comes out of our modes of commuting. During the stops at the intersections, in particular, I become acutely aware of the carbon dioxide and countless other toxins I could not name that invade my breathing air. What’s emitted from buses and trucks and motorcycles feels even worse. It literally suffocates me momentarily. As does the pungent, poisonous scent of gasoline entering my nostrils every time I pump gas into my car. Then there’s the overpowering, nostril-burning stench of a new coal-tar pavement or asphalt being laid on the streets. I cannot stand the stench, the burning toxicity of it all, because I know it is one of the many sources slowly poisoning us to extinction, all in the name of sustaining an unsustainable civilization.
I struggle also with the office air at work. Recycled air feels so stale, so dusty, so incredibly dry. The biological contaminants cycling through the air ensure that viruses, bacteria, fungi, and pollen circulate around and touch everyone. Furthermore, and even more problematic, is the air that distributes harsh chemical pollutants around. I find this when a section of the building has been renovated or when simply walking in to a department store. These emissions from plastic-covered commodities, new office equipment, furniture, wall and floor coverings, and cleaning products consistently make me feel lightheaded, tired, nauseous, foggy, dizzy, overall …crappy. This, in turn, makes it particularly unpleasant to take in a deep, life-sustaining breath because you know that the air you are breathing is slowly, but surely, killing you.
My breath is precious, so at the end of the day when I go home, I am glad to be among fresh air of whatever time and season it happens to be. I arrive home, take in a long, deep belly breath, and practice gratitude for the luck the universe has brought my way by allowing me to live where I live. Some days I take a nice walk, others I hang out in my yard. Some days I open the window, others I light my fire and warm myself near it. Either way, I know full well that the air I am breathing is providing me with a powerful life force energy that sustains and enlivens me in every possible way.
The Infinite Night Sky
Have you ever witnessed the spectacular beauty of the starry night sky? It is one of the most miraculous things one can ever experience. I love where I live because on a nightly basis, provided it is not a cloudy day, I can look up and see countless stars and galaxies of various sizes and depths. It is truly majestic, absolutely breathtaking. During meteor showers, I can grab a blanket and lay on the grass for hours with my hubby and contemplate the vastness of the universe, the phenomenon of life, and the role of our species on the planet. Just by bearing witness to the vastness, I feel an overpowering connection with the universe. I am part of her, and she is part of me, and in those moments, I can feel the undeniably deep connection between all of life.
I know, from the deepest spaces within, that we are alive, connected, divine.
I never had such an experience in any of the 10 cities I have lived in throughout my life. Cities are full of light pollution, which means that the vast majority of people living in metropolitan cities never get to experience the vast beauty of the dark night sky. I find this sad, given the impact of connect with the universe has on my own psyche. I can’t help but be tremendously grateful for the incredible luck I have been afforded: living in the country.
Powerful Mantras: The Sound of the Divine
As a vibrational being on this planet, I am particularly sensitive to the sounds and energy around me. Just ask my brother anytime he comes to visit — all he repeatedly hears is “turn that shit down!”. My psyche struggles, very much, with the noise pollution emanating from a modern lifestyle. Despite what my brother may think, my sensitivity to this type of noise is normal. Neuroscience shows how these types of noises trigger a negative response in our sympathetic nervous system (the fight-flight-or-freeze system), leaving us vulnerable to stress and the host of negative associations and ailments that it brings.
The rhythmic sounds of the earth, on the other hand, are deeply soothing, profoundly relaxing, perfectly engaging.
Stepping outside of my country home and walking through the forest that is my yard, I experience a feeling of pure peace that takes over my body, a sense of intense connection to all of life, an inexplicable feeling of belonging. I feel moved by the story of the forest as told by the wind gushing through the trees. I feel the connection to the birds singing their love songs. I feel the incredible density of peace during the absolute quiet of a snowy winter day. I feel moved by the serene sound of the earth itself as it gently snows. I feel the flow of life when surrounded by the sound of flowing water.
It is in these enlivening rhythms of the earth that I attune to my own subtle rhythms, like my continuous heartbeat, my free-flowing blood, my life-sustaining breath. It is in the presence of nature that I feel the vibration from which all other sounds were born. I feel my connection to the past, the present, and the future. My connection to eternity and to all of life.
On some rare occasions, I happen to enjoy walking in the city — I allow myself to enjoy the commotion, the people, the lights. Most times, however I notice the incoherent noises of traffic, the obnoxious revving of buses and truck engines, the deafening sound of machines drilling concrete, the consistent chatter and clicking and clacking. While city noises vary, the noise levels are typically 10 to 50 times louder than in quiet, rural areas and this has direct impact on our health. I know there are some people who claim to enjoy what to them has become background white noise within their city, but this simply isn’t me.
From my own personal experience, I know that loss of quiet is loss of awareness. Disconnecting from the mantra of “busy” that plagues civilization and connecting with the sounds of nature provides me the space I require to tune in to myself and hear my conscience communicating with me. It is a divine thing to do.
Things To Do
I hear a lot of people advocating for living in larger and larger cities because there is “more to do”. I suppose that can be true, depending on the perspective that one adopts (subjective, as always, of course). Cities offer a lot of amenities, such as clubs, facilities, centres, restaurants, stores, shops, malls, hotels, zoos, museums, bars, and nightclubs. I am glad that these types of amenities are available in cities, for those who want them.
Personally, however, I have reached a pivotal point in life where what ultimately matters is authentic connection with my Self, the earth, and few loved ones who progress my evolution. As you can probably deduce by now, I find I am able to better introspect when I am out in nature, not in the confines of the concrete jungle. Personally, I find that I cannot experience this profound connection to Self in chlorine-covered swimming pool filled with people swimming straight in lanes, but I can swimming in solitude in deep waters, where I flow at my own pace and absorb the sun-loving light for hours. I cannot experience it walking down overcrowded and concrete-engulfed streets, but I can while jogging barefoot on a peaceful trail. I cannot experience this in the consumer consuming shopping malls, but I can while walking along the hills of the picturesque countryside. I cannot experience it in neatly groomed public parks, but I can in the vast wild forests. I cannot experience it with caged animals in neatly-kept zoos, but I can with spirits running free in the wild.
It is in the presence of “civilization” that I become acutely aware of just how fucked and deluded our world really is. It is during this time that I realize…Some see culture, I see indoctrination. Some see excitement, I see overcrowding. Some see advancement, I see pollution. Some see centrality, I see confinement. Some see liveliness, I see decay. Some see prosperity, I see perverse poverty. Some see commodities, I see institutionalized slavery. Some see success, I see arrogance. Some see democracy, I see control. Some see selfies, I see narcissism. Some see celebrities, I see a cult. Some see commercials, I see mass plummeting self-esteem. Some see medications, I see poisons to escape reality. Some see commercials, I see massive bullies. Some see civilization, I see an ever-growing concrete cancer that has taken over a space that was once abundant with life.
All in All…
Coming from my current paradigm, I realize how important it is for me to increasingly remove myself from “development” and “civilization” and “economy”. These concepts and the way they play out have become an increasingly unimportant nuisance to me. Connection with my essential nature, however, is becoming increasingly pivotal to my evolution. In nature, I connect to the expansive, inexplicable force that connects all of life’s creatures to the divine.
In internalizing the immortal interconnection of life, I am able to foster a powerful connection with the deepest elements of my Self, and come to experience the I AM that I am as divinely eternal.
Experiencing this profound wisdom allows me to begin fully trusting in the voice within and living life from that space. Living in this way brings me tremendous serenity, because I know I am living in alignment with the essence of my essential nature.