By Kay Peterson //
A passing rainstorm doesn’t have to ruin a hike if we remember to bring a raincoat or don’t mind temporarily getting a little wet! The clouds are certain to pass and we may even be left feeling stronger and more rejuvenated than we expected. Our emotional landscape is much like the weather – we may not be able to control it, but we do have power over our reactions to it.
As human beings, we have a tendency to gravitate toward pleasurable experiences and to avoid potentially painful ones. One could argue that some of that tendency is a by-product of important survival instincts. We need to be able to identify and act when we encounter potentially life-threatening situations. However, this “instinct” can also run amok – especially these days when we rarely find ourselves being chased by dinosaurs 😉
Sometimes that part of the brain that alerts us to potential danger has been trained to be reactive – to be especially sensitive – often due to some kind of trauma in our past. Sometimes we’ve just been trained by messages around us to fear or avoid certain situations that are unfamiliar to us. Either way, these reactions can lead to unhelpful coping strategies and interpersonal difficulties.
The good news is that we can become more attuned to how this process tends to play out in our experience and learn more helpful ways to navigate challenges in our lives. When we raise our awareness of, and capacity for, being with fear (both around the little stuff as well as the big), we build the capacity to skillfully respond rather than impulsively react to challenge. I’ve found the best training to be practicing mindfulness and awareness in nature.
When we spend time deeply connecting with nature, we’re surrounded by examples of flexibility, resilience, and creative adaptation. When we synchronize mind and body, tune into our sense perceptions, and raise our awareness with meditation in nature, we connect more easily with the ever-existing network of support and our vast reserves of innate strength for whatever challenge life presents.
About the Author
Kay Peterson, MA, MFT is a psychotherapist, wilderness guide, and Shambhala Meditation instructor. She has been facilitating nature-inspired programs that integrate mindfulness, individual transformation, and creative group process since 1996. Kay also teaches Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) and is adjunct faculty at Naropa University. // www.kaypeterson.com