As the rust-colored hues of autumn give way to the barrenness that will become winter, there is much to observe—and learn—in nature. Beloved American poet Emily Dickinson wrote:
“Nature” is what We see—
The Hill—the Afternoon—
Squirrel—Eclipse—the Bumble bee—
Nay—Nature is Heaven—
“Nature” is what We hear—
The Bobolink—the Sea—
Nay—Nature is Harmony—
“Nature” is what We know—
But have no Art to say—
So impotent our Wisdom is
To Her Sincerity—”
The exiled Duke in Shakespeare’s comedy As You Like It, mused about a life lived in nature, away from the cares of the kingdom: “And this our life, exempt from public haunt, finds tongues in trees, books in the running brooks. Sermons in stones, and good in everything.”
Indeed, nature can be a gentle communicator, teaching subtle truths through tranquil rolling meadows, hills blanketed in freshly fallen snow, and silent granite cliffs that tower overhead. Or it can demand to be heard, shouting at us with ferocious waves that collide with ships, skies that crackle with lightning, and winds that rip through shelters grand and small alike. It is up to us to listen—and to learn from all that nature teaches.
Here are five of its most important lessons:
1. Stay rooted and trust in the future.
Regardless of the season, trees stay rooted in place. A sugar maple in the hills of upstate New York, for example, remains firmly grounded as its leaves turn a vibrant orange or yellow and then float with the wind to the ground. Through the winter months it remains standing despite being bare and vulnerable to the elements.
Likewise, there are many times in our own lives when we must remain rooted—true to our authentic selves and thus vulnerable to the whims of change. When we do so, like the maples on the hills, we allow ourselves to blossom, growing stronger and taller in seasons ahead.
2. Be part of a community.
Have you ever watched in awe as a dozen tiny ants marched together down the sidewalk, carrying a leaf many times their size? Or marveled at the detailed, concise, and orderly structure of a honeycomb?
Like ants and bees, we are each part of a community, capable together of doing things beyond our own individual strength. Communities provide us with mentors and connections that can increase our knowledge and help us meet our goals. Communities provide inspiration when individuals come together to support one another, whether that support is in a simple meal train created to help a new mom down the street or an organized effort to rebuild homes after disaster strikes.
3. Find your own North Star.
Many a sailor—from ancient times to the present—has sighed with relief when darkness falls and the sky lights up with stars, one of those being Polaris, the North Star. All of the other stars in the northern sky move around Polaris, while it holds nearly still, always marking the way due north.
Polaris isn’t the brightest star in the sky (it’s actually about 50th in brightness), but it is the steadiest and serves as a reminder that we, too, can find direction in our own lives by focusing on a steady truth or principle that guides all of our actions. That truth can be religious. But it can also be a moral code, or a purpose we have declared as our own. Having a purpose—or a commitment to a higher cause—provides life with meaning, guides us in the decisions we make, and shines light on our path during times of darkness.
4. Learn to soar.
Watching flocks of birds migrate south for the winter, in perfect formation, high above can teach us many lessons. My favorite is that each individual bird in a flock was once a tiny hatchling, incapable of flight.
Eventually, however, each one left the nest and learned to soar. And once they could soar—the world was opened up to them. Life is full of risks. And there is always the risk that we might fail. But we can never soar if we never try. Whenever I’m afraid to take a risk, I remind myself of the birds overhead who can now see for miles simply because they took that first step out of the nest.
5. Learn to wash it all off.
When heavy rains cease, clouds part, and the sun pours down its light and warmth, a feeling of peace and relief blankets the ground. The same thing can happen in our own lives when we learn to wash away our fears, anger, envy, and prejudices. Forgiving others and ourselves, brings relief as bright and comforting as the sun’s rays. It replaces clouds of darkness with cleansing light that brings peace, focus, and joy back into our lives.
This week, get lost in nature for a few minutes. Listen to the stories the trees tell as they sway in the wind and the messages the birds sing as they make their way across the sky. Breathe deeply, and take it all in.
Essential Oil Tips
Even if you live in a bustling city, you can immerse yourself in nature by using essential oils. I particularly love the oils that make me feel grounded, strong, and resilient. Here are three to try if you, too, want to feel that way:
Vetiver—Unlike most grasses, with roots that spread outward, vetiver has roots that grow downward, providing stabilization for the soil it is planted in and helping to prevent erosion. The rich, woodsy, and exotic-smelling oil that comes from vetiver is typically extracted from the grass’s deep taproot. Add a few drops to some Epsom salts and then dissolve the salts in a warm bath. Soak for 20 minutes for a grounding and calming bath before bedtime.
Douglas Fir—This oil is refreshing, soothing, and stabilizing. I love to diffuse this oil, sit silently with my eyes closed for a few minutes, and imagine I am lying of the floor of a wooded forest. As I breathe in deeply, I remind myself that I am strong, resilient, and always reaching upward.
Cedarwood—This oil comes from trees that thrive in cold climates at high altitudes. Likewise, its aroma promotes feelings of strength and vitality. Try mixing a few drops into your unscented lotion and rubbing the mixture into dry spots on your arms and legs before bed.
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