Holistic Healing in Nature

Elisa A. Escalante/ LMSW/ 5-4-2020

“And what is going to happen when it is all said and done…everything is gone now, and you forgot yourself?” -EaE

My experience in nature has dissipated over the years as I continue to reside in NYC. We must be careful, because before we know it, we may lose touch with nature all together. As this ‘Technological Revolution’ continues to advance/ progress and the 9-5 indoor work environment becomes more common, nature takes a back seat to what ‘we must do’ in order to survive in the modern workforce. I find myself getting more eye pain, more headaches, more sicknesses, more sluggish/ fatigued and more of a depressed hypersomniac than ever before.

     Lucky for me I met a man 2 years ago (currently my fiancé) that has brought me back to an old love that I had completely forgotten about: nature walking. Most of my nature experiences involved living in the Mojave Desert and walking and/ or jogging up in the Mesa of Yucca Valley, CA exploring the peaceful mountainous terrain. I did not realize it at the time, but those walks/ runs probably saved me. I used to take for granted the beautiful Joshua Tree, an incredibly rare tree that has been filmed in quite a few movies and music videos. I was lucky enough to live with these trees, but my negative/ depressed teenage mind could not grasp my luck.  Fast forward to present day, I have followed my fiancé’s path in forest hiking. I must admit it has humbled me in a way that I had not anticipated, the Eastern ROCKY ASS Mountains have hurt me mentally and physically, but are also forcing me to become stronger and more tranquil/ at peace with my present situation.

     If you, like me, have lost touch with nature I encourage you to get back in touch. As cliché as it sounds it is the most natural and holistic healing a human can partake in. What is more natural and human than walking up a mountain, gathering/ chopping wood, building a fire and cooking on top of the fire? Sleeping under the stars with many calming, yet scary, unidentified animal sounds? My greatest challenge was learning to be in the moment, my mind kept going over what ‘I need to do’ when I get back to ‘normal’ stressful unhealthy life. My mind kept crying over the pain and forgetting to explore my surroundings. I continue reminding myself to soak in the scene because before I know it, it is back to an office that gives me claustrophobia, a stressful job that does not allow time for self-care, fluorescent lights and computer screens that cause consistent headaches, and never-ending deadlines and productivity standards that produce shame in even the hardest of workers.  

     Nature, you almost kill me. However, like with many challenges, I find myself tormented but intrigued enough to keep going back for more. The reason it is so hard and torturous is because we have lost practice of living in our natural habitats. Before we know it, what becomes natural is everything that is not supposed to be natural: Dusty offices, sedentary days, 6 hours plus with screen time, fatigue and in turn a lack of hobbies. Ironically, the more sedentary we are, the more tired we become. A vicious cycle of sitting around, draining our minds, and exhaustion from the two leading to more sitting around, and draining our minds. As many probably know, this is not a wholesome or balanced life. From my short life experiences with nature so far, these are my findings.

Desert:  The sunny arid heat. Incredibly powerful and scorching in a way that kept me on my toes. A sun so powerful that it dried sweat the moment it came out of my body, leaving me unable to detect how dehydrated I really was. Killing my relatives that traveled from Ohio, so eager to explore yet so not adapted to the heat, the bright sun, and the bright sand that reflected sunlight. The myth was that there was no wildlife in the desert, but my walks proved otherwise: snakes, lizards, owls, vultures, coyotes, bobcats, tortoises, cotton tail’s, jack rabbits, scorpions, tarantulas, roadrunners and more. It is such a harsh environment, many of my neighbors chose to isolate indoors with their swamp coolers running while I scraped up weeds with the Hula ho, raked sand and scooped up the dog shit. (outdoor chores assigned by the parents) I allowed my skin to soak in the sun while wearing my tanning lotion, singing along with my cassette Walkman. (Remember those?!) That was my adversity, yard work chores for hours in the middle of 100-120-degree days. Walks and runs for hours middays to evening timeframes (I ran cross country and weekends were not meant for time off). My fun was dirt clod wars with my older brother. Yes, this meant wearing crappy clothes and throwing dirt clods at each other, literally. My peace/ serenity was the sunset’s: colors of orange, yellow, purple, blue shades as the sun fell behind the desert mountains. This is when the weather felt PERFECT. There is no weather quite like the desert when the sun goes down and the breeze hits right.  Lastly, the stars. The type of stars that a city person could never even imagine or dream of. Every night if we sat out long enough, we could see multiple shooting stars, identify the big/ little dipper, northern star and so on. The desert brings confidence, patience and perseverance. Even in scorched land we can maintain a semblance of life.

Ocean: I had always dreamed of living on the beach and got the opportunity at the age of 24 when I first lived in NYC in the Rockaway Beach area of Queens. In the first week of living there I fell on my knees in the sand, stared at the water and could not believe my life. A place so beautiful, peaceful, calming and soothing and yet, we spend our days indoors frying our brains with screens instead. I cried. The world is so much bigger than us and staring out into an ‘endless’ ocean reminded me of this. Try going to the ocean when it is a bit cold out, those days where no one is there except you. The days when the sky is grey and the waves are strong, and we may get reminded of how short life is, and how much time we waste. Walk alongside the beach, run alongside it. Collect the seashells, feel the water on the toes. Dig the feet into the sand, bury the body into the sand, swim into the ocean even though it is scary and cold. I swear a crab pinched my toe and kept me terrified and phobic for a good six months, but I sucked it up and went back in eventually. Saltwater punching me in the face with a trick follow up wave. This always left me coughing with sea salt pouring out of my mouth and nose, but I learned to go back in for more. My father used to call me a mermaid when he saw me swim. I was not a fast swimmer, but a calm one. Powerful water teaches us to remain calm and go with the wave’s vs resist them. We must move with the current and know that we will never be as powerful as a great body of water. The ocean teaches us calmness, serenity and letting go of what is out of our control. Sometimes in life, we must ride with the waves.

Forest: So deceitfully beautiful and calm, but so torturous to walk and climb through. As stated above the forest has been my present-day challenge, I underestimated its power. My mind get’s panicked, my feet go raw, my confidence destroyed. I trip, fall, slip, give up, go back and try for more. But all I see is nature, not a man-made thing in sight. All I breath in is fresh air, no more city fumes clogging my lungs. I run into the occasional animal before they turn and run to hide/ blend with their habitat: deer, wild turkeys, birds, chipmunks. I challenge myself to chop a few pieces of wood, and then humbly return the hatchet back to my fiancé when my fragile wrists burnout. My part of helping with the fire is searching for white bark, birch and twigs. Tents? Forget about it! Thank you, childhood and military, because I can pitch up a tent fast and roll up a sleeping bag tightly no problem. At some point I always go off by myself. I go where my eyes take me. Whatever looks appealing we must go to, follow our guts and see what we want to see. There are no boundaries, arrows, strict rules, or obvious paths. Instead we go with instinct and intuition on a forest exploration walk. What catches my interest is where I go, I stop, look, let it sink in and find a new visually appealing ‘marker’ to walk toward. Then, in the evenings, it is time to light the fire. Sit near the fire, let the heat hit your face. Stare into the fire, look at the flames naturally do what they do. Be as lazy as you deserve to be at this point, for you have had a long day of hiking, building, gathering, chopping and so on. The forest teaches us peace, strength and endurance. We get to where we are going but only if we have it in us to accept the hard journey forward.

My challenge to everyone: Get your ass back into a true nature setting when timing allows and let me know your feelings/ thoughts. Happy Healing!

Published by functionallymentall

Social Worker, Writer, USAF Veteran

2 thoughts on “Holistic Healing in Nature

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