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March 27, 2023

5 Ways to Unplug & Reconnect With Nature

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Whether exploring a new park or discovering the benefits of composting, there are many benefits to gain from reconnecting with the natural world.

Research shows that exposure to the natural world can improve your mood, reduce feelings of stress or anger, and improve your physical health in multiple ways.

With help from Omega teachers, here are five ways we can all take time to step away from our screens and deepen our connection with nature.

  1. Try forest bathing. A number of studies illustrate both the mental and physical benefits of spending time in nature, noting that you don’t have to backpack the Himalayas or hike into the wilds of Yellowstone to feel the positive effects. Just 120 minutes a week out in the forest or other wild environs near your home can benefit your health and well-being. Coined in Japan as shinrin-yoku, or forest bathing, the practice of spending time in parks and forests has become an accessible way to lower concentrations of cortisol in the body and provide other proven benefits.
  2. Take 15 minutes out for a walking meditation in the tradition of the late Thich Nhat Hanh. Whether walking the streets of New York City during one of his retreats, or along the river in Plum Village, Thich Nhat Hanh would say that we can train ourselves to walk with reverence. In this beautiful Lion's Roar passage, he said, “The earth is our true home and it is always there, beneath us and around us. Breathe, take a mindful step, and arrive. We are already at home.” 

    In this teaching, Thich Nhat Hanh mentions the miracle of taking steps on this beautiful planet and how it reminds us of the blessings of life. 
  3. Save seeds and get your hands dirty. One way to overcome the separation between humans and nature—and at the same time build a more biodiverse agriculture—is through the establishment of seed banks, says renowned physicist turned environmental activist Vandana Shiva. Across the United States and the world, there is a growing movement to save seeds. Some operate as small businesses, others work with farmers and gardeners on an educational basis, and still others are establishing seed banks, such as one that was started at the Gardiner (N.Y.) town library and grew into the Hudson Valley Seed Company. Composting is another way to get in touch with the life-sustaining power of the Earth. In this video, Connor Stedman, one of the lead faculty for the Omega Center for Sustainable Living's Ecological Literacy Immersion Program, demonstrates how to make compost quickly and efficiently. 
  4. Investigate mindful birdwatching. Ancient societies always recognized that we are part of Mother Earth and they had an awareness and understanding of birds that were vital to their survival. That appreciation of “bird language” is still part of the culture of some native communities. What better way to reconnect with nature than to watch the birds in your backyard or a nearby field? In this mindful birdwatching exercise, you find a sit spot, learn how to mindfully watch and listen, and cultivate an attitude of belonging and participation, instead of merely being an observer.
  5. Spend time near water.  As a symbol of life, water represents divine generosity. Spending time near the ocean listening to the rise and fall of waves, smelling the salt air, or sitting near a flowing stream in the pine forest can bring you back to a state of equilibrium. Water's spiritual meaning lies in its reflection of the human spirit and the interconnection of all creations. Here, Omega CEO Emeritus Robert “Skip” Backus discusses how water is foundational to life.