Want to Know How to Connect With Nature While Living in a City? Author Jin Nua stops by Balanced Babe to tell us how!
Even though summer is almost here and we’ll be spending many hours frolicking outside. I still find myself yearning to sprawl out in a field of peaceful surroundings: long grass, whispering trees, and endless barrages of beautiful clouds to stare at.
If you live in a city surrounding like I do, sometimes you may start to feel like you need some extra time with nature in your life. When I first moved downtown at the age of 18 – I was a city girl through and through. Thriving off of the energy of the buildings, the people, the sense of always having somewhere to go. Now, as I’m in my mid twenties (and 7 years of soaking in Chicago’s energy), I find myself daydreaming more often than not about being surrounded by nothing but nature.
For all of us city dwellers who wish we had more time to bask in nature’s beauty, do not fret! I picked the brain of the author behind “Awaken”, Jin Nua, whose book focuses on the connection between humans and nature.
Spoiler alert: You can bring nature inside to you – yay for all of us that live in apartments or condos!
How to Connect With Nature While Living In A City
BB: What are the external elements in our world that contribute to our harmony and balance?
Jin Nua – Nature herself contributes the most to harmony and balance—it’s designed into her very DNA. As explained in Centerpath, nature’s creative process generates creations with the qualities of symmetry, holism, beauty, and balance—nature is quite literally hard wired to produce worlds of harmony and accord. By studying her patterns and interrelationships, we gain deep insights into her delightful creative force and in the process gain great spiritual nourishment. Deep connection with others is also a prime pathway to building more harmony and balance in your life. Sharing, loving, growing, supporting, and spending time with children all build more of the same qualities in your life.
BB: For those living in the city with high rises and very little open space, they can feel very disconnected from nature. What are some of the ways city dwellers can reconnect with nature?
Jin Nua – To reconnect with nature, we need to get closer to nature. Thus you’ll need to find pockets of nature in the city in which you dwell.
The best place to start is to look for trails and parks within the city. Check maps and do internet searches—you might be surprised how many you find. If none exist in your city, look for them just outside the city or start a project within your city to clean up an area or start a park.
Even if you can’t find any parks near your house, seek out trees that line city streets. Spend time examining their forms and interrelationships; they possess most of nature’s wisdom. All trees share the qualities of fractals, symmetry, and returning to the source, so let their wisdom educate and enthrall.
Because so many great artists derived their inspiration from the natural world, go to art museums as well. Seeing artists express their awe of nature is uplifting and builds an appreciation for the earth, art, and beauty.
Man’s creations—stores, buildings, roads and institutions—reflect nature’s patterns. Studying how city structures are organized provides an interesting insight into man’s world and a nice reminder of how closely we are connected with nature. To jump start your appreciation of these ideas, you can get some inspiration in my book Encyclopedia Centerpath.
BB: Living in colder climates can make it especially hard to want to spend time outdoors. What are your suggestions for connecting with nature when it’s 20 degrees outside?
Jin Nua – Snowy conditions are actually ideal to build connections with nature. First off, fewer people go outside in the winter so you’ll have more quiet time by yourself or with a good friend, to view nature’s many marvels. Study the character of the landscape—cold and bleak yet it’s also the beginning of the next cycle of life. Spend time contemplating how, from the stillness and emptiness, new things come and how that might apply to your life.
Snowy conditions are the perfect example of seeing heaven on earth. What do most people associate with heaven?: white clouds, perfection and beauty, stillness and peace. Snow covered hills and trees provide just this feeling….The perfection and beauty of sprawling, geometrically balanced tree branches….The quiet and stillness on winter days….Heaven on earth through wintry days as a window to the heavenly creations all about us.
BB: Is it possible to connect with nature by being indoors? One way to get closer to nature indoors is to bring nature into your house. Invest in plants, small trees, and a great aquarium. If you have some free space or a terrace, build a small Zen garden and/or waterfall.
Jin Nua – In addition, you can buy great educational and picture books on nature and the cosmos. Genesis by Salgado Sebastião (Tachen Books), Fractals: The Patterns of Chaos: Discovering a New Aesthetic of Art, Science, and Nature by John Briggs (Touchstone Books), and any book by Ansel Adams are all great places to start. Indoor botanical gardens are also a great place to see marvelous plants, flowers, and trees.
BB: Can you briefly cite research done on this subject that validates the benefits and importance of our connection to nature?
Jin Nua – Sure. I’d love to. Some of my favorite sources include;
1. In his book, Born to Be Good: The Science of a Meaningful Life, Dacher Keltner outlines deeply rooted portions of our mind are hard-wired to take note of and reward us (via the release of good feeling mental ‘drugs’) when we spend time in nature.
2. In a series of studies published in the Journal of Environmental Psychology, Richard Ryan (professor of psychology at the University of Rochester) shows that people on wilderness excursions report feeling more alive and that just recalling outdoor experiences increases feelings of happiness and health. Other studies suggest that the very presence of nature helps to ward off feelings of exhaustion and that 90 percent of people report increased energy when placed in outdoor activities. All of the details can be found here.
Besides all the great scientific research, I personally like to believe the best source of research comes from listening to one’s natural heart. When walking in nature, we all know how it makes us feel better. We become calmer, uplifted, and life’s challenges tend to become clearer. Our heart knows immersing one’s self in nature is beneficial and, as CenterPath teaches, the heart’s always right.