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Retreat with Nature

Retreat with Nature

I am one of those unusual creatures who actually looks forward to winter and delights in all the gifts that it brings. Perhaps it is the introvert in me, the lover of yin and introspection. I relish the slow, bass-y drumbeat of this dark and moody season and the opportunities for reflection it affords. Oversized wooly jumpers that swallow me up, the sound of rain thundering against the window whilst I sit in the comfort of my dry, cosy home, the welcome warmth of steaming roast veggies after a wild and windy coastal walk - and the simplicity. I find such beauty in the wild nakedness of a landscape stripped to its core. It feels like a reminder that I too must peel off my layers.

But the reality is, this time of year can feel intense and overwhelming. ‘Festive noise’, compounded by the cacophony of Black Friday deals and flash sales that are happening now, can leave us feeling all sorts of wonky if we’re not careful. The tidal wave of pressures to socialise/spend/exert will take us from under our feet if we’re not looking and this festive crescendo will drown out nature’s soft whispers inviting us to retreat, restore and renew alongside her. After all, winter is nature’s ‘breather’ and ideally we should be taking one too.

So how can we reconcile these opposing forces - this inner calling to rest and these external pressures to ‘do’?

Whilst Christmas and the build-up to it is inevitable, one thing we can do is remember we have a choice. We don’t have to subscribe to all of it - or any of it for that matter. The mass-consumption, the social pressures, the Christmas fairs, the decorations, the parties, the noise. But this requires awareness - of our limitations, of what serves us and of what we must say no to. Cultivating awareness means we can make more conscious decisions that will help prevent burn-out and make sure we are getting the right amount of rest too.

Realistically most of us can’t (and probably wouldn’t want to) retreat to a forest or a cave to connect to the rhythms of nature but we can find ways to develop our awareness and invite some natural stillness into our lives in simple ways. Finding time to be in nature is one of the best ways to reset our systems and level out a frazzled dial. Whether a short stroll or an epic stomp, it is all helpful. Sometimes I have to deliberately slow my walking pace because I notice that I walk a lot faster when I’ve been busy. Soak in your environment as much as possible; look up, notice details, feel the sensations on your body, the wind, listen, tuning into the birds, the trees … get curious. My friend Katie is really good at this, always stopping to look at tiny mushrooms she sees in the woods or a murmuration of birds overhead whenever we go for walks. I got lost in rock pool gazing with some friends the other day too - another great way to slow things down. We felt like children again, squirming as sticky anemone tendrils stuck to our fingers!

As well as this direct connection with the natural world, taking the time to meditate is also very helpful this time of year. Carving some time, even just 5 or 10 minutes, out of your day to meditate will help you foster the balance of mind to help you tune into what feels right to YOU no matter what sort of madness is occurring in the outside world. Sit and be with what is as it arises with no judgement. My daily meditation practice is a lifeline when things get hectic. Just taking that time out to breathe and be with the simplicity of the moment is a tonic that changes the way I move through my day. The space that is created in my morning meditation manifests in my day and helps me ride the waves of chaos a little more gracefully. That’s not to say I walk around in an uninterrupted state of pure consciousness or float on a cloud of unshakable equanimity (as great as that sounds!) but I am that little bit more aware, that little bit more sensitive to my needs and that little bit more comfortable with saying no to invitations that feel like they might be out of alignment or deplete my energy. And that is all we need. Just that little bit of awareness to keep us anchored and aligned with nature.

So next time you are feeling Christmas overwhelm, remember that nature is welcoming you to slow down, take stock and rest alongside her so fall into her slipstream and gift yourself that breather.

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