Words: Maranda St John Nicolle Photo: Steven Buckley
In the past few months, many of us have found comfort and joy in our connections with the natural world. We marvel at nature – whether we’re sitting inside looking out at its beauty, or once again can go for a walk, a run or a wild swim.
Connecting with nature improves mental health and wellbeing. Think of the sense of relaxation and pleasure from a walk in the countryside, compared with the stress of a crowded bus, train or a long motorway drive.
It has spiritual benefits too. Many of us find that nature speaks to us of God’s great power and goodness – it praises our Creator through its very being. And many of us find that we can more easily understand ourselves and draw close to God when we allow ourselves to be open to the natural world around us.
The theologian Richard Bauckham, for instance, once wrote: “There is so much to notice about trees. All the endlessly complex patterns of their branches, all those different shapes, but they all (or most of them) have that upward direction, they reach up to the skies as though they were lifting their branches up to God in heaven, praising God by the whole direction in which they grow. They teach us what our lives, like theirs, are really for: to live and to grow in the direction of God’s glory.”
Meditating on nature
Reconnecting with nature can be as simple as meditating on what is outside your window. You could meditate in a quiet spot in the woods or the park. Use as many of your senses as possible. Let your eyes follow a cloud in its motion across the sky.
Take a few minutes to listen for birdsong. If you can, touch the delicate tracery of a leaf or feel the weight of earth in your hands. Breathe in the scent of a piece of fruit you’re about to eat and taste its sweetness. What does each of these things say to you about God? You may feel inspired to sing God’s praise or to reflect on God’s nature or his work in your life. Follow where your thoughts are leading.
The fruit of our connections
When we truly stop to appreciate something, we grow in love for it. And when we grow in love for something that God loves – as God loves the world – we draw closer to God’s own self. We also grow in understanding of how precious these gifts are, and how important it is to care for them… as God first created humans to do.