The simple pleasures of being in touch with ourselves and the natural world
Science is always trying to explain the longevity of certain groups of people, from around the world, who frequently live beyond 90 years of age. What’s the secret: their diet must play a crucial role, or perhaps it’s exercise? Or a combination of both? Or just good genes?
Another option, which is easily overlooked, could be a ‘simple lifestyle’ which offers the richness of experiencing ordinary pleasures deeply. People who live in this way are not constantly assaulted, asphyxiated, or overwhelmed by numerous sources of stress, anxiety, anger, or frustration. They are not constantly overwhelmed by information, by the news or social media, by screens (mobile, laptop, tablet), by worries, concerns, and responsibilities, or by competitiveness or ambition which may have a corrosive effect on their well-being.
Most urban dwellers live under this perpetual assault, meaning that our nervous systems may be under pressure over long periods without us even being aware of it.
Our nervous systems are therefore constantly being triggered by the fight and flight response – but the threats causing this are not visible ones, like a dangerous wild animal, another human being, or a real-life threatening situation. Instead, these ‘threats’ are invisible, like phantoms, since their sources are often internal (mental or emotional), caused by the pressures of a modern urban lifestyle.
Maybe when thinking about how to take care of our health and our well-being, and of our sense of fulfilment, happiness, and longevity, simplicity is something to consider.
Simplicity is firstly about connecting to your body, to allow it to breathe. Just for a moment, close your eyes, close off your senses. Stop and feel the presence of your body again. Stop to gather yourself. Stop in order to put yourself in control, rather than your stress and anxiety; your busyness, frustration, or anger; or any outside pressure, whether real or perceived.
Our bodies and our beings respond to simplicity. The body loves contact with sunshine, with fresh air, and the sensation of laying down on soft, fresh grass. The body loves the unique quality of the sky before a thunderstorm, the smell of the earth after rain, or the silence in a landscape covered by snow – even the smell of the snow.
Think about the way the resonant sound of a woodpecker deep in the woods brings us in touch with the forest as a living thing – an aliveness we feel in our whole body. Or how the trickling sound of water in a stream can soothe our minds, generating a pleasant feeling of ease and peace.
Explore what happens when you disconnect from all other activities and simply reconnect with yourself, particularly when you are in a natural environment – even if it’s just a small garden in the middle of a big city.
Our body loves all these natural things. Our body is a living organism, not a machine or electronic device like a laptop. The smell of the grass, the rustling of leaves on a tree, a gentle breeze on your skin, the sounds of the dawn chorus, the clucking of chickens running free on a farm, the laughter of children in a playground: being in touch with these so-called ‘ordinary’, ‘simple’ things can bring a deep sense of presence and pleasure.
So, please: explore what happens when you stop and take a few moments to breathe deeply, to relax your body and be in touch with it. Explore what happens when you disconnect from all other activities and simply reconnect with yourself, particularly when you are in a natural environment – even if it’s just a small garden in the middle of a big city.
Being still and sitting for a few moments in silence, you become an oasis of peace. You may hear the sounds of traffic, or of an ambulance, a helicopter, or the constant murmur of people in the street, but this needn’t affect or stress you out.
By reconnecting with the simplicity of being present in the here and now, you allow yourself and your senses to rest and be. In a few short moments, time will stop and you will start to touch the joy of simplicity, as your senses begin to pick up on what is around you, and the experience becomes more meaningful. Life will start to reveal its richness and fullness, and what looked ordinary will reveal its simple but rich, rejuvenating qualities.
So, is simplicity a foundation for a richer experience of life, a life lived more fully, and a longer life? My guess would be yes.
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