“Wherever you go, there you are.” Jon Kabat-Zinn is known for this quote through the title of his book on mindful meditation. Some people view the saying simply as a play on proximity and location. I was similar for years in that I chalked it up to, “of course, you’ll be wherever you go” (Thought bubble: “duh”). But through time, and most recently in the past couple of years living through this odd life consisting of a pandemic, natural “snow” disaster, family stress, business concerns and life strife, I’ve recalibrated the meaning of that quote to the effects that my surroundings have on my mind, body and spirit.
What I choose to mentally immerse, or “bathe” my mind, heart, and soul in, has a powerful effect on how I feel, what I think and how I respond to others and life events. Sprinkling your life with moments of mental sanctuary can help rinse away the physical stress and cleanse the mind while steeping your emotions with positive endorphins.
I’ve always told my kids that what you do and how you act is very contagious; walk into the door bearing your burdens from a stressful day, and typically the entire rooms’ emotion elevates similarly; lash out during a tough conversation, and the response you get is typically similar. Nature can be just as infectious but in a positive light. Place yourself in stressful surroundings; contagious. Sit amongst chaos; contagious. Settle in a place of peace; contagious.
Personally, I ground into nature and water as an immediate source of calm and tranquility. Whispering winds, still water, quiet hill country; contagious. For me, soaking up nature is part of my mental fitness toolbox; it’s readily available, basically free, and personally, gives me almost immediate relief and release when life gets too frantic, heavy or confusing.
Most folks that I share laps around the sun with know I’m nature and outdoors, inside and out. Born and raised on the lake on the banks of a working cattle ranch, this girl has a soulful relationship with nature. For decades, it was my playground; my gym; my fun. I’d romp, run and enjoy the physical freedom that unlimited boundaries offered me. I really never thought about the impact of nature on my mind and the privilege of an unconditional relationship I had with it beyond the luxury it afforded me in physical space.
However, I now know it is wildly important to me for what it stirs in my heart and soul, way beyond the training, the paddling, the biking, skiing and surfing. Wallace J. Nichols, friend, scientist and author of Blue Mind, says that “Nature is the number one source of AWE and WONDER. It expands our empathy and compassion. And by experiencing it, we are taken out of ourselves, we rethink our world views and open our hearts and minds to other places.”
“J.”, as he is known to friends, will frequently ask his readers and listeners, “What Is Your Water?” I transcribe that to “What Are You Bathing In,”and immersing your heart and soul that refreshes, renews and reconnects you? There are ripple effects beyond the immediate moment with nature; not only is what it lends contagious, but it also has lasting effects.
I find that nature gives me amazing humility; in its own rightfulness and silent power, nature and water ground me to give me perspective, hope and peace. Science refers to this as the Awe and Wonder J. speaks of.
Researchers describe AWE as “that sense of wonder we feel in the presence of something vast that transcends our understanding of the world.” Personally, I feel immediate connectivity to a collective vastness that is beyond myself, to think, touch, connect to something beyond myself. In its omnipresent way, nature whispers to me that I am woven into a vision, a purpose; a power that is bigger, better, higher than myself. “Reverential respect” — the best medicine to experience humility. And why the need for humility? Grounding myself into something much more important than me than circumstance or conditions beckons to me as a source for resilience, mindfulness and presence.
Taken away. Out of myself. No worries. No fears. No others. No distractions. To a place of peace, presence, connection, humility — and beauty.
Bathing — and taking in — the awe and wonder of nature and water.