Image: Kyle Sanguin on Unsplash

Encountering nature in silence, solitude, and seclusion, we become immersed in present moment awareness and find renewal.

Where I live in the northeast it’s winter. Being close to one of the Great Lakes, we experience what’s called “lake effect snow” caused by cold arctic air crossing unfrozen water. In the midst of one of these events, snowfall is measured in feet rather than inches, and gusts across highways create endless landscapes of white dotted by ice laden trees. There’s inconvenience, to be sure, but there’s also beauty in the pure, powdery drifts that turn stone and blacktop cityscapes into winter wonderlands.

And there is the silence. Science tells us that the quiet occurs because the airspace between snowflakes captures sound waves like a soft, fluffy blanket. The stillness, unbroken until the plows arrive, draws us into a state of calm. We reach for a steaming cup of tea, light a crackling fire, and cocoon in our favorite fleece wrap as if by primitive instinct. In those moments of silence, we hunker down and slow down; we reset our inner clocks to snow time, watching the flakes fall with the same attention we give to watching our breath in meditation.

Silence is one of the key ways of encountering nature that attunes us to our inner being and the possibility of self-discovery. In silence, we cultivate receptivity and open to an energetic flow of what shamanic teacher Lyn Roberts calls “true wisdom” — a knowing we’re born with. This energetic infusion awakens us to our wellspring of inner knowledge and its gifts of inspiration, healing, and spiritual renewal.

The restorative power of encountering nature is even more potent when partnered with solitude and seclusion — aloneness with and in the wild that ignites our senses beyond our everyday, partial awareness.

The solitude of a winding trail through the forest or endless stretch of sand pulls us further into receptivity. Without human-made distractions, we can immerse ourselves in nature’s embrace and hear its voice: the wind sings through the trees, squirrels skittering across tree branches harmonizes with the croaking of frogs — all create a symphony that invites us to be still and listen. Our inner voice whispers epiphanies in the solitude of nature, nourishing the soul.

Seclusion adds another layer to encountering nature mindfully and receptively, increasing our inner and outer awareness. There are paths less traveled by that bring us to hidden ponds that suddenly appear like nature unfolding her hand and showing us her secrets. Unvisited and undisturbed, these secluded places, drenched in bird calls and sunlight, lure us into the present moment with intensity that beckons us to behold and know that we’re on holy ground.

Encountering nature in silence, solitude, and seclusion arouses emotions not often experienced in our blanket-wrapped, weather-proofed lives: feelings of awe, wonder, and reverence. Venturing into the wild, alone and enveloped by quiet, we see the world as the poet sees: with rapture. Like a tonic for body, mind, and soul, nature restores us to ourselves.

by Elle Harrigan