Isn’t it interesting how natural patterns seem to represent something far greater than the self? Wind carved stone. Water tunneling through rock over eons. Clouds stretching into the horizon. Nature thrives through an ingenious balance of tensions. Though erosion and entropy enact their little dances, slowly whittling away formations and structures, the environment continually pushes back, hanging on in the face of conflict. There is a vibrant message we can glean from gazing at our surroundings. Each challenge posed in our lives is not a sign to give up, but rather, a unique opportunity to fulfill our human potential for greatness and beauty.
As a recent example of how nature can impart survival lessons, it’s instructive to consider the partnership of SF Benioff Children’s Hospital Oakland (CHO) Primary Care Clinic and East Bay Regional Park District (EBRPD). These two entities bring families to nature to restore health. A shuttle takes patients, their families, and the clinic staff to a variety of East Bay Regional Parks the first Saturday of each month to participate in guided activities, exploring the great outdoors. “We look to nature to help our patients become resilient. We believe nature has the potential to heal because it buffers stress,” writes Nooshin Razani. “When people have trees and vegetation around them, they have lower blood pressure, better emotional control, and improved attention and cognition.”
The partnership’s work is backed by studies showing children who live attuned to nature build more resilience towards strife, such as divorce, trauma and bullying. We live in a world of ever-increasing technology. Distraction after distraction compete for our attention in the form of screens to look at and updates to respond to, leading to stimulus overload and stress. In spite of this, we mustn’t lose sight of our connections to nature. There is so much to gain from detaching from the hustle bustle of modern life. Seeking answers from nature’s deeply communicative silence can offer lessons on how to overcome life’s difficulties, especially when it comes to our health.
As an illustration of this empowering phenomenon it is worth considering the case of Renee Davis. Diagnosed with incurable Lyme Disease, she received pessimistic messages from both establishment medical authorities and well-meaning friends to accept defeat. At first, she sunk into depression. Over time, however, she found untapped strength through a renewed connection to nature. “Night doesn’t last forever. The season of winter is finite,” she writes. “The morning comes, always. Spring is certain. And so it goes with the turning of the seasons; the wheel of life. Our connection to nature situates us in this ecological and even cosmic truth. Though we may feel dark, lifeless, hopeless, these seasons in us will not persist. We may feel limited in our physical bodies, but this is not eternal.”