I hope this finds you well as we enter the winter, with the festive season on the horizon once again.
I currently find myself in continued transition in many areas of my life. Although, don’t “life transitions” just face us with the fact that life is simply one continuous transition – from one moment to the next? And, if we dare to open up to this reality, don’t we find that life is, by nature, always uncertain, whether we feel we’re “in transition” or not?
This ever-changing nature of life can be the source of open, wide-eyed wonder at endless possibility, as well as the breeding ground of fear and anxiety about the ungraspable, unpredictable future ahead.
How do we navigate this?
Times where transition and change feels tangible can seem overwhelming, and feeling grounded, safe and supported can be challenging. I’m not claiming to have any answers – but will share four things that have felt relevant to me so far:
- To identify and engage with people, activities and surroundings which feel grounding, soothing and nurturing when things feel ‘shaky’
- To slow down and take a step-by-step approach without dwelling too far ahead – and small forward step that feels possible is enough
- To remain open to opportunities without holding onto expectations (much easier said than done!)
- And… when in doubt about life’s mysterious ways, to turn to the natural world.
Here, I’d like to expand on the final point.
I’ve inquired about life for as along as I can remember – with a genuine curiosity to gain insight into how to navigate this unfathomable journey of aliveness. With all its joys, pains, mysteries and uncertainties, this being human continues to engage me with wonder, bewilderment, confusion and curiosity every single day.
Nevertheless, what perhaps wonders and bewilders me even more is how we humans have gone about making our rules to live by. We’ve created all sorts of stories, belief systems, cultural norms, ideals and aspirations of success in order to try to understand, organise and structure this ungraspable life. Our creative cultural endeavours to make sense of life, and the diversity of routes humanity has taken in order to do so is also part of the wonderful phenomenon of humanity.
However, one thing I’ve never understood about us human beings is this: if we want to learn about life and how to live our uncertain lives, why don’t we turn towards life itself, and look into the natural world we’re all part of?
We are nature, so it’s no surprise that our lives unfold in natural ways, just like the rest of the natural world. Why would we be different? Yet we seem to persistently try to live our lives against this reality – expecting control, linear progression, speed, unlimited resources – to name a few.
In The Art Of Mindful Birdwatching, I wrote:
“Mindfulness is simply the awareness we can nurture to learn to live in tune with the natural flow of the world. Mindfulness gives us the power to end our perpetual conflict with the nature of reality within us and around us, and live in harmony with life”
This perpetual conflict and disconnection we’ve created between ourselves and the natural world seems to me to be at the heart of most of our unnecessary suffering (individually and collectively). How can we expect well-being if we choose to live our lives against the natural rules of life?
When we look into nature with mindfulness, we learn that life is impermanent and interconnected. It’s cyclical rather than linear. It’s constantly changing according to natural cycles of expansion and retraction, growth and rest – rather than fixed. Nature teaches us about patience and trust, acceptance and presence. It teaches us about compassion, letting go and letting life flow.
The guide to living our lives is already right here within us and around us – if we’re willing to pay attention. It’s what we call nature. It where we come from. It’s what we are.
As Mary Oliver wrote: “Instructions for living a life: Pay attention, be astonished, tell about it.”
So, what have you learnt from the natural world about how to live your life?
I’d love to hear your reflections below.