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The Healing Presence of Our Natural Habitat

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There are many reasons why spending time outdoors and enjoying nature is beneficial. Many of these have been measured by scientists, but one of the best reasons to walk in a park or take a forest hike may be unmeasurable.

It’s About the Body

Civilization, the world humans have created for themselves, is largely designed for the human body—the body’s survival and the body’s pleasure. That is not surprising since our earthly existence requires a body.

Some of us believe individuals exist before and after inhabiting a body. Others of us consider physical existence a singular and finite experience. Either way, life as we know it in every moment of each day requires a breathing body.

So, we create clothing to cover ourselves, form chairs to sit in, beds to rest on, tubs and showers for cleansing, build homes for protection, tables to eat on, and restaurants to eat in. We manufacture cars, planes, and trains to get ourselves around, and devices that allow our bodies to communicate with other distant bodies.

Maybe someday the human experience will evolve into something new, but it has been and currently is an organic physical experience. Society reflects this, giving the body a significance and status that it does not have in the natural world.

Where the Body Is Comfortable With Itself

Whatever its shape or size, our body is made of the same elements and minerals as our planet. We are part of a natural world that is present to us, but does not bow down nor look down on our presence.

Nature does not grow itself into tables, chairs, buildings, or cell phones to accommodate human need, yet it grows and offers everything we need. Earth, the natural world, is our home. You may think humanity is part divine and part clay, that we are entirely clay, or that the clay itself is divine. Whatever any of us believe about divinity, our body remains akin to the natural world.

Nature, however, does not form itself to accommodate humans. When we are out enjoying Earth’s treasures, whether wild or more manicured, we are not somebody or nobody. We are a living being enjoying our natural habitat among other living beings—or other forms of life, if you prefer. We leave for a time the world of man’s creation where we tend to bow down, or look down upon our own body or that of others.

One of the best reasons to walk in a park or take a forest hike is be where the body, at an elemental level, is comfortable with itself, and to hear what nature is silently singing to us continually—that health and beauty lie in diversity, cooperation, and wholeness.

Photo credit: Matthew Costa / flickr creative commons