So far, we have considered how our relationship with nature might be unhealthy. Now it is time to try to envision a healthy relationship and to find our compass to help keep us on track.
What would a healthy relationship look like?
To try to answer this question, I considered what a healthy human relationship might be like. You might like to try this for yourself.
I came up with the following:
- listening to one another
Some of these might not seem to translate to our relationship with nature at first glance. However, on deeper reflection, perhaps they offer some insight.
Listening to one another relates to connection. It is not simply about hearing words; taking time to connect with nature, possibly using some of the activities from this course and the website in general, has given me a chance to understand and learn from nature.
Kindness and compassion to nature and appreciation would hopefully be relatively obvious, but how do balance and reciprocation work? These are possibly examples where our relationship has faltered in the past. Whether it is ensuring that our use of resources does not completely deplete what is there so there is no chance of renewal or giving some form of service whenever we spend time in a natural space, it is possible that these actions are not part of our current mindset.
Honesty is another one that might seem a little awkward to interpret in terms of our relationship with nature. However, in taking this course, you have been practicing honesty by looking at ways that you might not have been the best friend to nature in the past. It could be as simple as the act of being conscious in our consumption.
How does trust work when we are thinking about nature? Perhaps it could be that we ourselves are trustworthy guardians of nature. In return, there is a faith and trust in the wisdom in the processes of nature that have been established over millennia.
Before we get to understanding, I want to introduce values.
Put simply, values help you to decide what is right and wrong, how to act and what matters most to you. This might include family, financial security, community, travel and adventure, learning as well as principles like honesty, integrity or compassion. There is an article here that goes into more detail and offers a link to an online tool to determine your values.
Once you have established what your own values are, you might like to consider how they relate to your relationship with nature. For example, my family values might relate to spending time together in nature, but also towards looking after the planet so that future generations of my family can be supported and thrive.
Understanding- Foundation Stone 5
What might nature’s values be?
This is where we put together the listening and understanding parts of the relationship. Healing a relationship requires that we understand the other’s perspective. By connecting with nature and listening (observing) deeply, we can start to get an idea of what nature’s values would be. The clues are in the way things work in nature.
From your experiences of nature, what do you think nature’s values might be?
I compiled the following list. They may or may not fit into a conventional definition of values, but I find them helpful in directing my relationship with nature and my actions:
- Balance – ebbing and flowing
- Sharing – not taking more than we need
- Cycles – no such thing as waste
- Constant change – impermanence of everything
- Patterns – take what works and repeat and repeat and repeat
- Conserving energy and going with the flow
- Future generations are of utmost importance
- No hoarding – don’t hold onto what you don’t need
- Everything has a purpose
- The right thing in the right place (and time)
- The power of diversity
You may well come up with your own or think that some of these do not exactly fit. When I thought about the “no hoarding,” I thought about squirrels, burying nuts for the winter. Then I realised that the gift the squirrel gives back for all the free food is to spread the nuts away from the tree and then not to dig up all of them so that some grow into new trees. I invite you to explore your understanding of nature through these ideas and whether there are any lessons you can take from it. We will return to these again later.
Noticing the Good Stuff
In step 2 we looked at how things might be broken, but it is also important to look at what is already going well. Reflecting on your values, nature’s “values” and what you think a healthy relationship looks like, what do you think is going well so far in your relationship with nature? What would you like to keep or even have more of? What can you build upon?
Activity: Breathing with a Tree
Remember – please do share your experiences in the Facebook group
If you enjoyed today’s session of the course, please do consider donating to Friends of the Earth if you have not already. This course is free and it is important that everyone who wants to can access it, so there is absolutely no pressure if you cannot afford to donate.