Day 6 of the course is all about our three remaining foundation stones.
Foundation Stone: Compassion
Compassion has appeared throughout this course already. It is fundamental to healing our relationship with nature, with ourselves and with other people. I have left it until the end because it is also one of the trickiest elements to master. Some excellent books have been written on the subject, including those by Dr Kristen Neff. For self-compassion, a great place to start is at this website.
Compassion implies caring. It is not the same as sympathy – which is basically “I see you are hurt.” Compassion is about seeing someone’s suffering and feeling compelled to do something to help ease it. Self-compassion is not just about acknowledging any difficult feelings or situations we are facing, but also showing ourselves some care. This might be as simple as resting or being more gentle with ourselves. There are some fantastic practices to get the hang of it. I like those on Insight Timer, which is a free phone app.
Activity: Compassion for nature
Every morning I start my day with a compassion for nature practice. As I consider each aspect of nature, I really connect with my feelings and visualise sending the compassion and healing. I contemplate what might need healing and I build a vision of what I wish for each element – whether it is the trees or the Earth or the oceans or other people. I have recorded this practice here.
Foundation Stone: Reparation
This foundation stone has been implicit throughout the course, but I thought I would mention it here and some of the ways that it features in my life. You may well think of your own ways too. Each of us can make a unique and valuable contribution to this healing work.
In any resolution of a dispute or relationship breakdown, it is likely that there would be some need to discuss repairing any damage that is done or make amends by changing the way things are down going forwards.
I try to find ways to give service whenever I go outdoors and, if I am unable to get outdoors, I work doubly hard. Outdoors service for me is very often litter picking, but it also includes nurturing a wildlife garden, and feeding the birds and hedgehogs. Supporting conservation charities and helping with projects that protect areas of land and the local people are two examples of the indoors work. Signing petitions, raising awareness and making reparations through the places I spend or invest money are all other examples. I read books and articles to educate myself on environmental issues and on ways that I can help and I use my vote and my voice to try to help change through government and corporations.
For lots of really accessible ideas, I highly recommend The Sustainable(ish) Living Guide by Jen Gale.
Activity: Giving service
This is very much the compassion part of nature connection and it is a very powerful practice. You are invited to choose a way to give service that resonates with you. You might like to join some conservation volunteers or get involved with a campaign to bring about change or follow any of the ideas above.
Foundation Stone: Humility
One of the fundamental things that I think has damaged our relationship is the idea of us having dominion over nature instead of it being a partnership. It is hard to fathom how human invention can in any way match the collective “wisdom” that has been built up over millennia in nature, given that we have only been on this planet for a very limited window and we have a tendency to be over-reliant on just one aspect of our being to solve problems (our minds). Humility asks that we entertain the possibility that we do not know best and that we be open to learning and hearing some of this wisdom. I believe, however, that we embody part of that wisdom but have perhaps lost touch with it. In following this course, I hope that perhaps there is a chance to reconnect with this.
I have written this course by listening to nature and trying to share some of the insights I have been given. I am not an expert and I can only really share my experience, which may be very different from your own. However, I hope that there are some pointers here towards things that are common to us all. There is great value in our shared experience but also in your own unique gifts and insights. I sincerely hope that as I have raised questions and suggestions through this course, you have perhaps been able to rediscover some of those gifts and insights for yourself.
Activity: Connecting with the wisdom within
Earlier in the course, we have done breathing exercises. This practice revisits that. You are invited to notice your breath – at your nostrils, throat, chest or abdomen – wherever it is most obvious to you. Notice that you do not need to change anything or do anything. Your body is breathing itself and has done from the moment you were born, before you knew the words or anything about the process of breathing. Your breath responds to changes in your surroundings and your emotions and activities without you even thinking. In fact, it can tell you about your emotional state if you pay attention. So the practice is very simply to notice the quality of the breath, how it changes moment to moment and to get used to listening to a wisdom that is not coming from your thoughts. Your breath is taking care of you in each moment. You may notice that as you pay attention, your mind might be tempted to start to take control. Do not resist this or fight with it. Just notice the tendency and practice just allowing the breath if you can. This part can be tricky so may need a little practice. You might find it helps to let the mind take control by taking some deep breaths and then relaxing into a natural pattern. Noticing the tendency of the mind to take over is a key lesson. It is natural for this to happen, but now you are able to be mindful of it and spot that there is an instinct for us to control our breath with our minds when we pay conscious attention. What else in life might this apply to?
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.