Celebrating Nature from the Inside Out!
Wed, 04/22/2020 - 19:37
"Climb the mountains and get their good tidings. Nature's peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees. The winds will blow their freshness into you, and the storms their energy, while cares drop off you like falling leaves." - John Muir
Last year on Earth Day, windows were installed in the Alpengirl office, and we were shocked (and excited!) at how much difference a small glimpse of sky, trees and birds made in our work environment. Perhaps we shouldn't have been surprised - connection with nature, no matter how small, has been shown to calm the mind and reduce stress responses in the body (2). This spring, windows are playing a more important role in our lives than ever, as many of us are at home much of the time and rely on our windows to connect us with the natural world outside. Here in Montana, outside the window deciduous trees and shrubs are finally sprouting leaf buds, the robins and magpies have arrived to spring clean their nests, and, if the window happens to be open, birdsong and above-freezing breezes can be heard and felt.
Nature’s ability to help us put our minds at ease is truly remarkable. Each day we are bombarded with information, ideas, and images, and our brains work overtime to process the input generated by modern life. The stimulation overload can cause chronic stress, anxiety, and distraction, to name but a few. We find ourselves overwhelmed and overloaded, and increasingly unable to connect with our experiences in the present moment. Caught up in the whirl of input, we miss the lengthening sunsets of springtime, the small wonders of things growing and sprouting - but we also miss opportunities to connect with each other in laughter over a shared experience, or moments of stillness where we can get to know ourselves.
Amazingly, even a postage-stamp-sized snapshot of the natural world can help bring you back into the present moment. Small wonder houseplants are the trendiest type of interior decor these days: just the sight of a fern, cactus or succulent helps create a sense of calm, a reminder of our connection to the world around us. And if one overwatered spider plant can help reset your mind (see photo), imagine what a walk in a forest could do. Or a hike on a mountainside, or a paddle on a sunny river, or a swim in a glacial stream (talk about a sensory experience! I dare anyone to try not being in the present moment when plunging into clear, chilly water).
At Alpengirl, every day is Earth Day as we connect with nature both on purpose and by accident all day long! Each morning at camp during the Alpenyoga routine, girls practice awareness of their bodies and surroundings: they might choose a particular tree to imitate in Tree Pose, or simply let the sounds of birds or the rushing of a nearby creek help them relax in Savasana.
Some of our more challenging activities help us connect with the the present moment in a different way: scrambling over a fallen log on the trail, sweating in the summer sun, working together to purify water, cook our meals, and pitch our tents… there is so much to sensory information to experience during each of these moments that we can’t help but focus on the intricate natural world around us. We might shake our fists at an afternoon thunder shower, feel grateful for a shady lunch spot, or wonder at an unknown wildflower while swatting a pesky fly, all the time unknowingly practicing mindfulness in nature, and simultaneously giving ourselves a break from crowded, chaotic thoughts.
It can be a challenge to remember to hear, see, and feel the natural world as we move through our lives outside of camp. But something as simple as looking out a window can change your mindset immediately, and help you find your way back to a calmer, more serene frame of mind.
This Earth Day, celebrate all that our natural world does to help us, even through the window - and remember, in a few short months, we hope all the campers registered for this summer’s adventures will be meeting each other, and under the guidance of a team of stellar female guides, small groups will be taking off for weeks of outdoor adventures in some of the most spectacular wild places in the west!
(2) Coleman, Mark. Awake in the Wild, 2006.