Are you apart from or a part of nature?

It’s a simple concept, but we often come back to it in conversation: how do I see myself in relation to nature? 

George listened to an interview on the radio the other day where the subject told of how she takes inspiration from the natural world. The way she spoke made it sound like the ”natural world” was a completely separate entity from herself. Patrick Whitefield, who was (and still is posthumously) a leading figure in the Permaculture scene spoke of the difference between viewing nature as an external environment compared to viewing oneself as part of nature. This comparison is something I often think about when in the kitchen garden. 

Here is my personal take on it. The more I think of myself as part of nature, the more I want to look after it. It also makes me more willing to share the harvest with other creatures and less willing to interfere with the complex ecosystem that is clearly beyond my understanding. I am less likely to remove a slug or shoo off a bird. And what’s more, it’s a two-way process, it feels like nature becomes more and more a part of me. This in turn makes me think of the gut microbiome, that huge population of other ”beings” that inhabit my gut and look after my body. Or is it their body too? The lines begin to get very blurry…And meanwhile, when this conscious feeling of being part of nature comes, I feel extraordinarily calm, the cyclical ways that repeat over and over give me new opportunities to observe and try to understand, nothing is or indeed should be, in my control. 

As I am also very interested in yoga and it’s effects on human health, it might not surprise you that I am intrigued by the effect of yoga on planetary health. My own experience is that I feel more in touch with nature when I practice yoga and mindfulness meditation, and that effect is more lasting if I practice regularly. 

Perhaps yoga and mindfulness simply helps to unravel the layers of our modern world. Our modern world that is constantly convincing us that nature is separate from us, something we can use, take from, enjoy, be charitable towards, and marvel at. Our modern world where mental health is on a downward spiral and many feel socially isolated. Could it be that we’ve not only lost connections to other human beings, but to other ”beings” full stop. Have the previously well-trampled paths overgrown? Have we become disconnected to our true context, while being busy connected through technology and social media? 

Perhaps just spending time or a conversation on this simple question might help to reopen the paths: Am I apart from or a part of nature?