One of the main ways that I find connection and a sense of groundedness is through nature. I lean against big trees and a sense of relief washes over me. I watch the wind blow the leaves of the trees and I calm through the hypnotic light dance of the green shifting in the breeze. And what I long for most in the city is the stillness of a forest without the buzzing of cars, the distant sirens or the hum of the city. But what I've discovered over time is that if I bring my attention and awareness to the nature around me, while in the city, I am able to find a similar sense of relief and calm without having to be immersed in the landscape of mountains and trees. I can tap into it's magic right here in the middle of Vancouver.
A few years ago, I was in a deep state of grief and transition. I had graduated from college with my Diploma in Transpersonal Psychology; I was undergoing a financial bottom, revamp and cleanse; I had just moved into a new apartment and my relationship had ended. My life that I had become so comfortable living in and had provided me with a false sense of security had drastically changed.
It was a rainy gray November day in Vancouver. One of those days where it feels like the clouds have been sitting over the city for months and the warmth of the September sun feels like a long lost dream. The air was heavy with dampness - wet west coast weather laden with salt from the Pacific ocean that sticks to your skin. The moisture seeped into my pores, intermingling with my unshed tears and soaking my bones. I walked up 10th avenue, my new neighborhood, on my way home from the library with no books in hand. Even the library had failed to bring me any sort of glimmer of joy that day.
As I walked up the rainy street, I was acutely aware of all of these shifts in my life that had happened within three months. I knew at a deep soul level that this transition was necessary and that these changes were actually a new jumping off point for my life but on a very human level, I was grieving. I was grieving the loss of the consistency of my classes and the regular weekly support and hugs of my classmates. I was grieving the end of a relationship that I had entered wearing rose coloured glasses. I was grieving the comfortable predictability of my life. And above all, I was grieving the choices I'd made.
Sitting with the knowing that where I was in that moment was based on my own decisions felt shocking and humbling. I was realizing how all my choices made in times of hope, love, anxiety and fear all had different impacts on my life. The weight of the realization felt heavy and hopeless as I dragged myself home. Under the dark gray clouds, I was struck clearly with the truth that all of the choices I had made up to that point had led me to where I was on that day in that moment.
Every day and every moment we make decisions based on past experiences, limiting beliefs, desires, hopes, dreams and fears. Sometimes these choices are in alignment with our hearts and sometimes they take off in a different direction that lead to opportunities for change, growth and learning. These choices, no matter whether they are made from a place of fear or love, are imperative for our growth and evolution.
In my depressed state, if was really difficult to hold on to this truth that I believed at my core. I knew, deep down, that what I was feeling and where my choices had landed me was a huge opportunity for me to expand and step into myself. And the burden of my grief overshadowed this belief. I was struggling to feel hopeful in the middle of my process.
My head hung low and my eyes trailed along the gray cement of the sidewalk. My shoulders carried bricks and I felt nauseous. I heard the whiz of bike tires along the wet pavement as I lamented the perpetuity of this gloom. I asked in my mind in desperation, "How long is this feeling going to last? I can't feel this way forever?"
I received an instant response which shook me awake out of my depression. I heard a voice, clear as a Robin's call on a May morning, say "Look up."
I lifted my heavy head and right above me on the leafless branches of a Japanese maple, not a foot above my head, sat a hummingbird. Anna's hummingbird, which through adaptation and most likely the desire of people to care for these stealth tiny birds by feeding them through the winter months, stays and braves the wet cold winter months of Vancouver.
She sat above my head and gave her nearly inaudible call, that you only hear if you know what to listen for. It's like how I imagine a teeny violin would sound, tiny strings rubbing together playing music. And there was my answer. In my days of despair, I'd forgotten how to look for the magic life, even if just for a moment. In my heavy grief, it had gotten so difficult to lift my head up, that all that existed was my own fog.
When we become so insular and focused on our internal struggle, it feels hard to see any sort of glimmer of hope. These glimmers do not need to, and most likely will not, last forever. As they cycle just like our grief and our sadness and all of our emotions. And it's incredibly important to remember that they exist. For in remembering the existence of shimmering magic in the gray and the despair, this is how we find our way to continue to put one foot in front of another, to lift our heavy heads and hearts and to look up. This is where we find the strength to move through the grieving process and to allow the emotions to move and shift and transmute.
Hummingbird reminded me in that grayness of my existence of the mysticism, of the hope, of the power of life that continues to grow all around me even in my state of fear and anxiety. Hummingbird lent me her wisdom that glimmers of hope exist in every moment we just need to remember to look up and around every so often or we might miss it.
To notice Earth Magic and the shimmering hope that exists for us in the city, sometimes we need to employ a little more effort. Sometimes we need to make the choice to see beyond our own perceptions. When we choose to open our eyes a little wider and listen a little deeper, we allow for a new experience to come in, we allow for a little glimmer into our day and this can make a profound difference to our human experience.
5 Ways to Connect to Nature in the Cityscape.
Ask: Give yourself permission to see the magic. Ask your awareness to become aware of what you may not see. In asking you give yourself permission to have a new experience. Can you give yourself the opportunity to see magic in the mundane?
Embody: A form of mindfulness. As you walk or sit outside, bring your awareness into your body. Notice your breathing. Notice your shoes making contact with the ground. Breathe and feel the air filling your lungs. This brings presence to the moment. What sensations do you notice in your body?
Listen: Deeply. Unplug. Take out your headphones. Pause the podcast and the music. Hang up the phone. Bring your awareness outside of yourself. What sounds do you hear around you? Where are they coming from? Notice.
Look: Look up! Look around! Look at the birds, at the shrubs, at the trees. What do you see? What do you notice?
Imagine: Allow your inner child out to play. Imagine all the magic of nature and all the possibilities of what you see. What would your childlike self see if you allowed them to look around?
We are apart of nature. And everywhere I look I see a metaphor for our own human dilemma of struggle and courage and celebration. Nature reflects us so perfectly. And when I can connect to it, I almost always feel understood, supported and in awe of life.