Connecting to the Outside World

What do you notice when you step outside? What do you hear, see, feel? What happens to your thoughts and your body; does anything change? Do you feel connected to what’s around you, and if you do, how?

Nature is in a state of constant change. The sunlight glistening off the waxy ivy that curls around the neighbouring building; whose leaves display an array of colours, from salmon, to gold to deep green, all enhanced by the sunlight, looks this way in the moment. Tomorrow, or even later today, the very same leaves will be completely changed, illuminated at a different angle, or transformed into small overhangs being drummed by the rain.

Each observation of nature can be a mindfulness activity. An exercise in gratitude, awe, and learning. What can intentional observation teach us about the world and about ourselves?

We have constructed floors, walls, ceilings, little and large insulated boxes, that separate us from the elements. We flit between shelters. From school, to home, to work, to the shops. What impact does this separation from nature that we have so readily created have on us and the world? Have we created too much distance? How can we reconnect?

There are many ways to connect with the outdoors, and each person will have their own way that works for them.

Here are just a couple of the ways that work best for me:

1. Just being. When I was a kid, a nature guide took us out in the woods of Harriman State Park, New York. We each had to find our own little space, close our eyes to enhance our other senses, and start to open up to what was around us. Bird calls, the rustle of leaves in the wind, a squirrel rummaging through the crackly underbrush, perhaps a gust of wind would bring the sound of cars whizzing along the highway, the steady in and out of one’s own breath, and the heart, usually a silent, diligent worker, could be clearly heard. Sensations would be enhanced as well. The wind on the skin, the dapples of warm sunlight perhaps, the ridges of the suddenly uncomfortable root that had been selected as a seat.

Once you teach yourself to notice the details, to sit and focus on what is around you, and to be truly present, it is amazing what you can notice that you never had before.

2. One way I like to notice the details and the beauty that nature has to offer is to study it through a lens or with a set of pencils and paper. With a camera in hand, a walk turns into a search for beautiful shapes, colours, textures. Can that patch of purple heather, contrasted against the understated shades of green, taupe, grey from the surrounding ground be an entire artwork?

Once a palette of colours is laid next to you, and a landscape up ahead needs to be translated to a canvas, do you see it the same way you had before? Are the plants actually just green? Or is there a sliding scale of shades and colours hidden behind the first impressions; do teal, brown, yellow, reds all come in to play?

Or can nature itself become the medium? Can the leaves and sticks that were part of the landscape become the colour and lines of something new. Some Venture Scotland groups have created amazing natural artworks!              

What glimpses of nature, from out of your window at work, between the shops and home, on a walk you’ve decided to take, or on a Venture Scotland bothy trip, can you take in? How can you connect in a way you haven’t before? How can you share your experience and ways of connecting with others? And, most importantly, how does connecting help your wellbeing and your relationship with the outdoors? Whether you are a seasoned nature appreciator, or you are just starting to think about how to take the first step (maybe on a VS programme?), there are immeasurable ways to connect and immeasurable settings, so go on…pop outside…and take it all in.

Sophia Spencer, Venture Scotland Outreach and Support Worker