Wild woman, Jemma Louise Hunt, takes you to the brooding wilds of South Wales via her words and images.
With the last of the leaves and fruits of autumn falling, as we move towards winter’s shorter days, it is natural that we encounter changes in our own behaviour and well-being. Looking towards the autumnal debris of decaying foliage we see a representation of the way our fatigued bodies currently feel - withered and aged. Much like the shriveled leaves that litter roadsides and pathways, we desire nothing more than to curl up our complicated edges and hide from the world and its expectations and judgments. To rest our weary bodies and undertake our own hibernation until the first light of spring awakens within us.
As tempting as it might seem to close the doors on Nature Mindfulness practice and curl up in front of the television with our favourite comfort foods, such activities can quickly lower our mood and create a negative impact on our mental well-being, leading to inner darkness as foreboding as the weather outside. The general sense of optimism and joyfulness that we encounter throughout the lighter days of the year is replaced with lethargy and melancholy. So how can we revive our flailing spirit when nature's own energies are settling into a winter retreat?
Capture the imagination of your inner child, and invite them out to play.
A key component to Nature Mindfulness and any type of connection with nature is to approach it through the eyes of your inner child. Think back to childhood when every experience was a new adventure viewed through a lens of awe and wonder. Putting on your raincoat on a rainy day, you didn’t care that your hair would become wet and dishevelled or that your trousers would soak through to the skin. You embraced the elements. Kicking your feet through the puddles and laughing over the water that pooled in your shoes.
Connecting with our inner child helps us to gain a different perspective of our walks. Instead of grappling with the elements and getting angry because we’re cold and wet; we embrace it. When you view the world through childlike wonder there is no longer any judgment on the current experience because it is as if you’re experiencing it for the first time. This is a great practice to strengthen a more mindful approach to day-to-day life.
It is inevitable that the older we get the more we gain in life experience and therefore the more judgments we make based on those experiences. Viewing the world through innocent eyes creates a blank canvas diminishing expectation, which in turn lowers stress and anxiety, creating a life filled with optimism. What if you viewed your nature experiences unaware of the outcome? How much more enjoyable would that walk through autumnal and winter storms become?
With the natural world beginning its gradual journey into hibernation, Nature Mindfulness practice takes a different route, drawing from a variety of practical and playful rather than overtly spiritual.
Here are three simple ways in which you can connect with your inner child during your daily walks this autumn and winter.
Reach for your wellies and have fun!
A transformation occurs when we slip our feet into a pair of wellies. We are automatically transported back to childhood and adventure. Suddenly there is a sense of freedom to splash through the puddles and take the muddier route along our chosen footpath. I invite you to put on your wellies and venture out into the next rainstorm. If you like, ask a friend to join you and relive the joy of water fights. Find the deepest puddles and shower each other in the cold rain water. Or turn your attention to the muddy footpaths. Instead of searching for the cleaner and drier route, seek out the boggier track. Listen to the squelching sounds as your feet sink into the wet earth, feel the soft sensations beneath your feet. Laugh heartedly as you try to keep your balance – bonus points if you fall down! This is an invitation to lose your inhibitions and omit the etiquettes of adulthood.
Listen with inquisitive ears.
It is the time of year when the weather is often loud and blustery, and on such days, I invite you to find a quiet spot in nature that is away from manmade sounds such as traffic and machinery. Ideally a space amongst the trees in a local park, country lane or woodland. Take your time to acquaint yourself with your surroundings. Let down your hood and close your eyes if it is appropriate for you to do so. Breathe deeply and encourage your inner child to feel into the roaring wind. Experience it as if for the first time. The whistling through the overhead wires, whooshing through the remaining leaves on the branches, almost frightening in its overpowering rage. Notice the taller trees swaying, coming together and the sound of impact reminiscent of fighting stags and colliding antlers. Allow your imagination to soar, what do the different sounds remind you of? How do they make you feel? Try to listen further, going deeper into your chosen environment. Can you hear the leaves as they journey to the earth? Some tumbling gracelessly, the echo of their clumsy descent evident as they land awkwardly upon the outreaching branches. Others cascading in a display of grandeur, latching onto the breeze, spinning and twirling, mesmerizing in their final swan song.
Investigate the fallen leaves.
As the trees reach the end of their yearly cycle, the legacy of their once thriving fruits and foliage gathers at the base of the trunk, spreading out into the neighbouring surroundings. Rustic leaves of varying colours, ranging from green, yellow, brown and deep red gather in dense piles waiting to be discovered by foraging animals and probing humans. I invite you to tap into your inner child and approach the decaying foliage with a curious mind. Hold the leaves in your hands and explore the different colours and textures, notice how they change dependant on the weather. Crisp to touch with delicate diamante coatings on frosty mornings, and a contradiction of slimy yet gritty textures on wet days. Relish in the crunching sounds as you wade through the mass of fallen foliage, scooping it up into a bundle and throwing it into the air. Breathe in deeply, savouring the earthy scent of building leaf mould as it catches the breeze. Join in with their flittering dance as the leaves return to the earth.
Reward yourself for all that you have overcome and achieved in personal growth this year by making time for your inner child and surrounding yourself with all that you hold dear. This is the moment to love and laugh, and look on life - and nature connection - a little less seriously.
About the Author:
Jemma Louise Hunt is a poetic writer from South Wales, UK. She guides others in the art of Nature Connection, using the power of descriptive storytelling, poetry, and mindful invitations. Connect with her on Instagram @tales_fromawildwoman and share your own experiences using the exercises in this column