5 Intention-setting Ideas to Support Our Connection to Nature
“The trees are about to show us how lovely it is to let the dead things go.” — Anonymous
With the fall equinox upon us this week, it is a great time to contemplate our connection to nature and in our own small ways, begin to set intentions to strengthen that interdependent bond. Both equinoxes, spring and fall, are times when there is a balance between light and dark. Between the fall equinox on Friday, September 22nd and the winter solstice, on Thursday, December 21st, days in the Northern Hemisphere will give way to longer nights. Mother Earth begins her journey into the quiet darkness of night where nature moves into a stage of inner preparation. Animals prepare for hibernation. These outward signs offered by nature can guide us on our continued journey of transformation. And if we each do our own inner preparation, embracing the quiet darkness within, we’ll discover new ways of being that may be more in harmony with the cycles of nature and supportive of the larger web of life.
Below are some intentions to contemplate at this time of year to demonstrate to Mother Earth that we are listening and are open to honoring our connection to her:
- Balance. The word “Yoga” means union, or to yoke or join, and suggests that in uniting or joining opposites, such as light and dark, we bring balance, wholeness, and peace to our bodies, minds, and consciousness. When we reject the darkness, we are rejecting parts of ourselves that are simply mirrors for us to use in reflection. Plan to spend some time in reflection, looking deeply into the mirror, seeking the light in the darkness and the darkness in the light. Ask yourself if there are parts of yourself that scare you, invite them to sit with you awhile and get curious about why you might be rejecting them. If we reject a part of ourselves, such as our angry part, this part provides just as much fuel to what moves us as the parts we accept in ourselves. In fact, our rejected parts tend to pop up as uninvited guests sometimes at the most inopportune moments because we have not integrated them into our view of self as a whole and balanced being having a human experience.
- Cleanse. As the trees begin to drop their leaves, let it inspire you to turn up the heat under your practice of Satya, which is the active pursuit of truth. Satya is one of the Yamas of yoga, which guide us in how to interact with others, which is a reflection of how we treat ourselves. This practice requires us to loosen our grip on what we think is truth, because it most likely is simply our – or someone else’s – opinion. So, one idea is to listen for any judgments that come up at this time, especially when it is towards another and watch how that judgment guides your behavior. Again, get curious about the judgment, asking yourself where did it come from and do I really believe it, and if you discern that it didn’t come from you (instead it came from someone else or it is a societal message) and you don’t really buy into it, visualize it being washed away. Then you might ask yourself how might you respond differently in that situation moving forward now that you have gained some clarity around what you believe is true.
- Let go. Create space for yourself by planning to take a Restorative Yoga class this month. This yoga practice focuses on our parasympathetic nervous system, the “relaxation and digestion” response in the body. Poses are supported with props, such as blankets and bolsters, and are held for a minimum of 10 minutes, to provide enough time for the body’s activation system to turn off. The signal to the muscles is “let go” and soften to bring balance to all of “the doing” found on our schedules. When this practice is integrated into our schedule on a regular basis, it begins to show up off of our mats when we find ourselves letting go of thoughts and deeds that no longer serve us, others, and the world!
- Honor the Void. To support your practice of Satya, consider starting a meditation practice to help quiet the mind and create space between your thoughts. Most of us try to distract ourselves from our thoughts as they are often critical and judgmental of ourselves. When we meditate, we don’t try to stop our thoughts so much as we create space around them, to allow us to drop beneath them and not be under their control, as they tug at us to engage in the conversations of the mind. In the space between our thoughts, we are able to connect to our inner light that is intimately and eternally connected to source, reminding us that we are divine, perfect beings living in a imperfect world. Meditation does not need to be hard – simply start out by taking 1 minute a day for a week to stop, bring the awareness of the mind to your breath, and actively lengthen both your inhales and your exhales. Then maybe explore the many free meditation apps available and find one that you like. As you continue your practice, the space created in the mind invites in more peace, enabling you to share that peace with others, including Mother Earth, more readily.
- Practice Pranayama. Pranayama is Sanskrit for the practice of controlling or channeling your essential life force energy in your body. Prana, or life force energy, floats on the wave of your breath, so simply sitting for a moment to watch your breath, sensing where you feel your breath in your body, and working to expand and lengthen the inhales and/or exhales has you on your way to awakening the energy and tuning into your own cycles of life. With each breath that you experience with awareness and control, the mind is drawn back into alignment with the heart in the body, supporting mind, body, and spirit health. The basic yogic – and human – breath pattern is described as a 3-part breath, with the inhale expanding the belly, then the ribs, and then the collarbones and the exhale releasing from the collarbones first, then the ribs, and then the belly. If your mind would prefer, you can simply silently count to yourself, maybe starting with a count of 4 for both the inhale and the exhale, and then working slowly towards a longer count, maybe a count of 6 or 8. This pattern of controlled breathing actually helps the body and mind to reconnect to the natural rhythm of breath that our babies experience, before life weighs down on us, causing us to hold or shorten our breath cycle. The longer our breath cycle, the longer our cycle of life!