Deepening your connection to nature doesn't mean you need to find a remote patch of wilderness and spend weeks living off the land while sleeping in a lean-to.
It doesn't mean that you need to devote so much of your free time to being outside that it becomes a part-time job.
More than anything, deepening your connection to nature requires cultivating awareness and attention.
Here are four practices you can do anywhere, even if the most natural place you have access to is a city park.
1. Pay Attention to Place
The fastest way to deepen your connection with the natural world is to pay attention to where you are. The world is always changing, so this can be a lifelong, ever-renewing practice, even if you walk the same paths every day.
Use your senses to explore. See what it smells like outside at different times of day and in different seasons. Watch how the light changes throughout the day and during the year. Feel which way the wind blows and notice if the trees or buildings are affected by the wind over time. Listen to the sounds of life all around you (remember humans are part of nature, too).
If you pass by a river or creek, notice which way it flows and at what depth and intensity. If you live near the ocean, become aware of the tides and the currents. Notice from which direction storms typically come. Learn how to estimate the time of day and the cardinal directions based on the position of the sun.
Look up at the night sky, learn the positions of the constellations, and get a sense of where we are in the universe.
2. Be Quiet and Let Nature Come to You
Take some time, wherever you are, to sit quietly in nature. Wait until your presence is no longer new, and observe what occurs. Do this without judgement, without expecting anything to happen.
What animals do you see? How do they behave? What sounds do you hear, both the loud ones and the more subtle, distant ones? Do you notice more once you get quiet? If you want to keep a record, do so. It can be fun to leaf back through it every so often to observe changes.
3. Eat Locally
Regardless of what diet you follow, if you eat seasonally and locally, and with mindfulness, you can experience a more intimate connection with nature through food. This works whether you grow some of your own food or you purchase it at a local farmer’s market or supermarket.
When you look for locally grown produce, you begin to notice seasonal shifts in a new way. You get to see how a food slowly becomes available until it builds to an abundant level before it disappears from the market until the following year. If you follow it, this cycle can anchor you in the seasonality of the year in a deeply grounding way.
Even if you live in a subtropical or tropical climate where seasonal changes are more subtle or limited to dry and wet seasons, you can still try this. Knowing that your location can produce multiple harvests of a particular food in a year, or even that it can't produce a certain food at all, connects you to the unique attributes of where you live.
4. Take Up a Seasonal Sport
If you crave a more vigorous activity to bring you into deeper relationship with the natural world, try a weather-dependent seasonal sport.
Surfing and standup paddleboarding demand that you pay close attention to wind speed and direction, tides, ocean swells (both distant and nearby), water temperature, and currents. As much as these sports require balance, fitness, and love of the ocean, they require a measure of amateur meteorology, too.
Snow sports such as alpine or nordic skiing, snowboarding, or snowshoeing will quickly have you glued to the weather, monitoring the snowpack, the wind direction and speed—no matter your ability level.
© 2014 Omega Institute for Holistic Studies