Today is July 21 and the Navigate the Chaos question to consider is “how often do you reflect upon your relationships?” Those who navigate the chaos understand they have multiple relationships to tend to as they travel down their path of translating their dreams into reality. We have relationships with ourselves, each other, strangers, colleagues, family members, and nature. We do not live in a vacuum and have many relationships over our lifetime. Perhaps the one relationship that goes often overlooked is our ability to connect with nature. It offers, after all, a tremendous benefit for those navigating the chaos.
Unfortunately, never have we been so far from merging with the natural world and so divorced from nature. By 2050, 66% of the world’s population is projected to live in cities. According to a study sponsored by the Environmental Protection Agency, the average American spends 93% of his or her time indoors.
But the good news is that even a small amount of time in nature can have an impact on your health. A two-hour forest bath will help you to unplug from technology and slow down. It will bring you into the present moment and de-stress and relax you.
In Japan, the practice of forest bathing, or shinrin-yoku has existed for centuries. Shinrin in Japanese means “forest,” and yoku means “bath.” So shinrin-yoku means bathing in the forest atmosphere or taking in the forest through your senses.
This is not exercise, or hiking, or jogging. It is simply being in nature, connecting with it through your senses of sight, hearing, taste, smell, and touch. Shinrin-yoku is like a bridge. By opening your senses, it bridges the gap between you and the natural world. In other words, being in nature helps you reflect upon your relationship with the larger world around you.
Studies have confirmed that spending time within a forest setting can reduce psychological stress, depressive symptoms, and hostility, while at the same time improving sleep and increasing both vigor and a feeling of liveliness," reports Mother Earth News. "These subjective changes match up nicely with objective results reported in nearly a dozen studies involving 24 forests—lower levels of cortisol and lower blood pressure and pulse rate."
Just the smell of trees has health benefits. "Chemicals secreted by trees, known as phytoncides, have been linked with improved immune defense as well as a reduction in anxiety and increase in pain threshold," reports Slate in an article on the health benefits of nature. Studies have also shown that children with ADHD who play in a green outdoor environment, rather than an indoor or constructed environment, show a decrease in their symptoms. Even just living around more trees means a healthier overall mental state. A recent study showed that Londoners who live near trees take fewer antidepressants.
While the benefits of taking a walk through a forest are clear, what is less understood is the value of silence one encounters during such an experience.
British philosopher Alan Watts wrote Hermits in New York to help people understand the value of becoming quiet to see and hear. People who successfully navigate the chaos understand the value of solitude. Watts wrote
“Let us take hermits. People today think being a hermit is a very unhealthy thing to do. Very antisocial, does not contribute anything to everybody else - because everybody else is busy contributing like blazes, and a few people have to run off and get out of the way. But I'll tell you what hermits realize. If you go off into a far, far forest and get incredibly quiet, you'll come to understand that you're connected with everything. That every little insect that comes buzzing around you is a messenger, and that little insect is connected with human beings everywhere else. You can hear. You become incredibly sensitive in your ears and you hear far-off sounds. And just by the very nature of isolating yourself and becoming quiet, you become intensely aware of your relationship with everything else that's going on.
So if you really want to find out how related you really are, try a little solitude off somewhere, and let it begin to tell you how everything is interdependent in the form of what the Japanese call 'jijimugi'. 'Ji' means a 'thing event,' so it means 'between thing event and thing event, there is no block.' Everything in the world, every event, is like a dewdrop on a multidimensional spider's web, and every dewdrop contains the reflection of all the other dewdrops. But you see, the hermit finds this out through his solitude, and so also human beings can acquire a certain solitude, even in the middle of New York City. It's rather easier, as a matter of fact, to find solitude in New York City than it is in Des Moines, Iowa.
But the point is that a human represents a certain kind of development, wherein a maximal sense of his oneness with the whole universe goes hand in hand with the maximum development of his personality as somebody unique and different. Whereas the people who are of course trying to develop their personality directly and taking a Dale Carnegie course on how to win friends and influence people, or how to become successful - all those people come out as if they came from the same cookie cutter. They don't have any personality.”
Now for some, who have an ego-centric view of the world where they are the center of the universe, this question will go unnoticed. For others, however, those who successfully navigate the chaos, they understand they are part of a larger world. The universe revolves around the sun, not their ego. To navigate the chaos it is important to reflect upon your relationships with yourself, those closest to you, strangers, those who are unable to help you, and nature. How you relate matters. Somewhere along your path you will need the support, help, and encouragement of those around you. Nature will play a role in how you succeed.
Albert Einstein wrote: “A human being is a part of the whole called by us universe, a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feeling as something separated from the rest, a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.”
How often do you free yourself from your prison to understand your relationships?