contact with nature is healing

MAINTAINING CONTACT WITH THE BEAUTY OF NATURE DURING THE DEAD OF WINTER

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“The aesthetic value of creation cannot be overlooked. Our very contact with nature has a deep restorative power” (Saint Pope John Paul II)

Once again, winter is upon us here in Michigan. The trees are leafless and the amount of sunlight has drastically declined. By dinner time it seems that we are already engulfed in physical darkness. And as it gets colder it seems as if we spend most of our time indoors. Under all of these circumstances it probably is not that unusual that some of us begin to experience a type of mild depression or malaise known as “seasonal affective disorder” (a/k/a the winter blahs).

I believe it is important and helpful under these circumstances to maintain contact with the beauty of nature, and that such contact with God’s creation enhances our mental well-being and outlook.  Father Irala, in his popular book, Achieving Peace of Heart, tells us that “we must live beauty.” He maintains that we need to be “reeducated” to “receive the external world.” This priest tells us that we need to learn to let “beauty enter deep into us.” Please refer to my previous post

Contact With Nature is Very Healing and Very Necessary …

Now maintaining this essential and curative contact with nature is fairly easy in spring, summer and fall, but how do we carry it out in the dead of winter? Some people head down to Florida for a while!, but many of us have to endure the cold and dark winter season.

My basic recommendation is that we should become highly cognizant of the fact that we need to maintain contact with the beauty of nature during the dead of winter. Some people ski, or snow-mobile, or do other outside activities that place them directly in the beauty of winter. But many of us look at winter as something to endure, to get through, until finally the weather becomes more bearable. If, like me, you fall into this latter category, then you run the risk of being cut off from the mental well-being contact with nature provides. Thus, it is essential that we hibernating types take positive steps to maintain contact with nature during the winter months. Here are some ideas that may help.

The other day it was dark and only 12 degrees Fahrenheit as I stepped outside at 6 am to get into my car, but I stuck to a ritual I have of momentarily looking up at the sky to glance at the stars. I probably spent less than 25 seconds looking up at the beauty of the firmament (yes, some days there are no stars, but most days there are!), and I then said a short prayer praising God for His Infinite Beauty, and then I got into my car and turned the heat on! But there you go: even though it was very cold I made some minimal contact with the beauty of God’s creation.

Another ritual I utilize in the winter is to open the top half of an upstairs window and to peer out meditatively – as the cold air brushes up against my face – at the sky, or at an evergreen covered with snow, or merely at the breadth of the world outside as it presents itself. The point is that this simple exercise assures me of some contact with the beauty of nature in a palpable, less attenuated, manner. Keep in  mind that the sky is an eminent (though frequently overlooked) source of beauty. Today the sun was out, along with a beautiful blue sky and billowing white clouds. The sky – even in winter – can be a source of profound beauty, a reflection of God’s grandeur (and yes, I realize that there are many days when the sky is dreary and depressing, so we must take advantage of the good days!). And since the winter blues seem directly related to a lack of sunlight, be sure to get outside when the sun is shining! Sunshine makes us happy.

But most importantly (even if the sun isn’t shining): get outside! Snow is very beautiful. Look at the snow. Study its beauty. As Father Irala says, train yourself to receive in the influx of nature’s beauty. If you walk a trail in summer, why not give it a try in winter! And when the snow falls and lands like countless ice-cycles on the barren trees, making them shine like a festival of heavenly lights, you can say in those immortal words of the poet: “The world is charged with the grandeur of God.”

Glory be to God for winter!

Tom Mulcahy

P.S. Here is a very helpful link:

5 Reasons to Spend More Time Outside — Even When It’s Cold

Image : Photo by Bridget Mulcahy following an ice storm last winter.

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THE WONDERFUL HEALING POWER OF NATURE

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I am convinced that many people would experience improved mental well-being if they increased their contact and communion with the natural beauty of God’s creation. 

God, who is, as the scholastic theologians say, in His creation by His POWER, PRESENCE and ESSENCE is most assuredly present in the transformative beauty of the natural world.

Commenting on the healing power of nature, Saint Pope John Paul II made the following observation:

“The aesthetic value of creation cannot be overlooked. Our very contact with nature has a deep restorative power; contemplation of its magnificence imparts peace and serenity. The Bible speaks again and again of the goodness and beauty of creation, which is called to glorify God.”  (John Paul II, 1990 World Day of Peace Message, no. 14.)

What is being urged upon us here is an improved communion with nature. Who hasn’t felt a special feeling of tranquility walking along the ocean shore, or gazing upon a majestic mountain? And yet how often do we find ourselves cut-off and deprived of the beauty of nature for many reasons. Pope Francis made this observation in his recent encyclical on the environment, saying, “In some places, rural and urban alike, the privatization of certain spaces has restricted people’s access to places of particular beauty” (no. 45).
 
Father Irala, in his popular book, Achieving Peace of Heart, tells us that “we must live beauty.” He maintains that we need to be “reeducated” to “receive the external world.” This means, in one context, that if we are looking at a beautiful river we should spend some time peering into it –contemplating it – so that we may receive the vital influx of its beauty. It’s as if he was saying, “take some time to stop and smell the roses.” 
 
Father Irala tells an interesting story about a businessman who was on the verge of a nervous breakdown. It was apparently felt that the overworked businessman needed some time away from his hectic office to unwind and rejuvenate, but since this remedy wasn’t feasible his physician requested that “an aquarium of tropical fish built in his private office and that he spend an hour every day peacefully watching the graceful convolutions of those little creatures.” It is related that “before the year was out he sent a donation to [his physician’s] hospital as a token of gratitude for his cure” (p.41).
 
Perhaps many of us need to be reoriented to the beauty of the natural world and its deep healing power. If we are alienated from nature, we are in some sense alienated from God. Near the end of Laudato Si, Pope Francis wrote these poetic words:
 
“All-powerful God, you are present in the whole universe and in the smallest of your creatures. You embrace with your tenderness all that exists. Pour out upon us the power of your love, that we may protect life and beauty” (no. 246).
 
Let us not only protect life and beauty; let us immerse ourselves in its “restorative power.”
 
Tom Mulcahy, M.A.
 

P.S. As a practical example, many of us spend time walking along a nature trail. To reeducate your mind to the beauty of nature, spend some time actually peering into the moving stream along the trail, or looking receptively at a strange but beautiful flower you pass by. Father Irala says that we should let the beauty “enter deep into us.” We are not talking about pantheism, but rather about God manifested through the beauty of his external creation. This is, in essence, a form of religious contemplation.

To SHARE on SOCIAL MEDIA: click on “Leave a comment” or “Comments” below (and this will bring up social media icons if they are not already present).

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Contact With Nature is Very Healing and Very Necessary

“The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands” (Psalm 19:1)

I am convinced that many people would experience improved mental well-being if they increased their contact and communion with the natural beauty of God’s creation.

God, who is, as the scholastic theologians say, in His creation by His POWER, PRESENCE and ESSENCE is most assuredly present in the transformative beauty of the natural world.

Commenting on the healing power of nature, Saint Pope John Paul II made the following observation:

“The aesthetic value of creation cannot be overlooked. Our very contact with nature has a deep restorative power; contemplation of its magnificence imparts peace and serenity. The Bible speaks again and again of the goodness and beauty of creation, which is called to glorify God.”  (John Paul II, 1990 World Day of Peace Message, no. 14.)