You get that you’re human right? A Modern Human. A.K.A. a Homo Sapien. You’re an animal. You are part of nature. You not only need to eat food from the Earth in terms of plants and animals, but you also need water. You mostly are water. You walk on the Earth and you breathe air. You are a physical creature in a physical world.
The virtual world has only existed for a short time. I remember in the late 1980’s listening to CBC radio when they interviewed a guy who was explaining that the internet was going from being a military/scientific system/experiment to one that the public and private sector could use using something called a browser that converted the internet’s language into fonts and pictures so that we could search through that virtual world. It all sounded very Star Trek, but instead it was more a social revolution that happened.
You can reach more people than ever in an instant, and yet you’re less connected overall. Why? Because you’re living in the virtual world too large a percentage of your time. You need to get back to nature because you aren’t virtual, but you are a part of nature. And if you do get back to nature please don’t do this: some friends went out to the lake. They did the usual water skiing, going for a walk in the woods, trampolining, barbequing, swimming and finally a fire outside. When they showed me the pictures I couldn’t help but notice that another friend of theirs was in every photo, but she was never involved in the activity. She was always hunched over her phone. She wasn’t on the boat. She was where she was on her phone. She wasn’t in the forest. She wouldn’t have smelled the smells or seen the hummingbirds. She was somewhere else. She had unwittingly created distance between herself and her friends because they were in the forest and she was lost in cyberspace.
You can read the latest literature on how pine and spruce trees give of pheromones that calm you, or you can watch a documentary about the health benefits of outdoor exercise, or you can listen to an expert talk on the radio about the off-gases created by decaying plastics in our home and how much more dangerous the air is indoors versus the stuff outside our doors. But all of that is outside stuff. That’s other people’s studies and science. And sure, it’s great that it’s there. But you have to start trusting you. You have to stop asking Harvard how much water you should drink and you should trust that, after a million years of evolution, the sensation of thirst obviously means something.
So don’t go into nature because I say so or because some expert says so. Go selfishly. Go spend time in nature and feel your connection to the things around you. They say for most trees, as far as they go out above is how far they go out below. Same for height. So when you’re walking through a forest, you’re literally walking inside it. It is above you for 20 meters and below you for 20 meters. And every bit of it is alive. Even a tiny piece of dirt will be teeming with microbiology. So spend time feeling that and then tell me you’d rather play more Candy Crush. You won’t need me to recommend it. You’ll remember you’re an animal and you’ll feel good. You’ll be able to sense those pheromones. You’ll feel the air’s freshness. You will be surrounded by life. And that profound quality will strum the same chord within you. And then no one will have to tell you to visit nature regularly. You’ll want to. Because it feels so good.
You will feel your addictions tug. You’ve trained your mind to be A.D.H.D. so you’ll feel the tug of want as your brain pleads for a fix of your phone. Just one text. Just one look at the weather or Twitter or Facebook. But those will soon die down as you learn to just re-shift your thinking back toward appreciating what’s happening around you. Forests in the tropics can grow a couple feet a day. That means if you lay there in a hammock for 12 hours, you’ll move a foot further off the ground as you lay there simply because the entire forest around you is alive and in motion. (For video see The Friday Dose #35)
Women with beautiful smiles and healthy bodies are moving down streets hunched over like they belong in a bell-tower in Notre Dame, their captivating eyes nearly crossed as they tap away at their tiny screens. Kindhearted, confident men walk, head down, oblivious to the world around them. And at least some of them are busy leaving comments on some website about how hard it is to meet people. Sheesh.
This isn’t a scolding. If you want to surrender your life to a two-dimensional pixelated digital stream then that’s cool with me. But it feels like calling an irradiated Big Mac the same as your Mom’s best holiday dinner. They’re both eating. But one is a pale imitation of the other. Same for your digital life versus actually being present with real people, animals or inanimate nature. The world’s a fascinating place if you’d only give it a chance.
Go meet your neighbours. Go actually touch a tree. Hug one. Look closely at the differences between leaves. It’s autumn in the Northern Hemisphere. The leaves are changing. Soon the streets will be lined with leaves of gold. Walk in them. Listen to them. Throw them into the air. Stop wanting to be somewhere else and be fully where you are. Do that, and you will know the salvation that people come to me for. Do that and you will feel reconnected to the very source of your existence. And there is no piece of technology that can give you that.
Following a serious childhood brain injury Scott McPherson unwittingly spent his entire life meditating on the concepts of thought, consciousness, reality and the self. This made him as strange to others as they were to him. Seeing the self-harm people created with their own overthinking, Scott dedicated part of his life to helping others live with greater awareness. He is currently a writer, speaker and mindfulness instructor based in Edmonton, AB, where he finds it strange to write about himself in the third person.