This morning, I got up at dawn and went out with my video gear in hopes of getting some nice footage. It was a frustrating session. I didn’t get anything outstanding, but I did get some decent footage (featured in the above video) and I most certainly had a number of vivid and pleasant experiences. This set me to thinking. When it comes to nature immersion, is it really a good thing for me to be driven primarily by my goals, and by the technology I am using to capture images and sounds? The following essay addresses this concern.

Goals and Nature Immersion:

Nature immersion, at its core, involves relaxing the mind to allow for a deep, multi-faceted engagement of the senses. An overly-active, goal-oriented mind often works against this process, confining experience to a narrow scope which blinds one to the larger totality of the moment. It can be argued , however, that by focusing our attention, we actually heighten and super-charge experience, though within a narrow, restricted domain. So perhaps the best solution is to embrace both approaches. Why not gain a mastery of our inner process and cultivate the ability to consciously move from one domain of experience to the other?

For me, the two approaches have often posed something of a dilemma. A big part of me enjoys the goal-oriented approach … to go out into wild nature with the intention of capturing cinematic videos and high-quality sound recordings that I can share with others. When engaged thusly, I become intensely focused on animals and their sounds. I become like a hunter stalking prey (though without the killing). This most certainly begets vivid, hyper-sensual experiences quite unlike those generated from a more normal state of mind.

Yet I am aware of the limitations! By adopting a focused and object-oriented approach, it becomes difficult for me to “stop and smell the flowers.” I may be in such a rush to fulfill my goals that I do not notice the beautiful reflections on the pond or the rich smell of the rotting leaves underfoot. And even if I do, there isn’t the time to stop and simply enjoy the show. My goals indeed propel me forward but I become like a horse with blinders. I see only what is in front of me and nothing to my sides, above or below, or behind me. I view nature through the window of my gear, through my lens and my microphone, directed by my intensely-focused mind.

Pond at Dawn

So what to do? Obviously, nature immersion comes in different flavors. I propose that we first define a continuum of experience, ranging from intensely focused and goal-oriented to wide open and all-inclusive. The challenge, then, is to cultivate both extremes as well as everything in between. Once we become aware of “where we’re at” in any particular instant, we become empowered. We can choose to change course, to move from a focused, object-oriented appreciation to a more de-focused and broad sensory appreciation … or vice-versa and then back again. We now have control over our selves and can shape the quality of our experience by maneuvering in whatever direction we like.

Touching wild nature, experiencing immersion and being released from stress and worries, can occur with either approach. So why not become flexible enough to embrace the extremes and move freely between them? Only then will we be able to control our own destiny, at least during the slices of time that we devote to immersion in the natural world.

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