Medley of birds singing along a small stream in deep forest. 5am, June 8, 2000, near Ithaca, New York. © Lang Elliott. Note: this is a 3D binaural recording; please listen with headphones if possible.
We are born into a magical world of sensory delight, our beings naturally tuned to our surroundings. We are part of nature, our senses connecting us to the whole like an umbilical cord, allowing us to commune with and be nurtured by the source from which we have sprung.
I am interested in how to deepen one’s personal relationship with nature and especially one’s ability to enter into a heartfelt communion with the myriad life-forms with which we share planet earth. My approach is simple and easy for anyone to understand and requires no special knowledge or particular set of beliefs. Yet it can be challenging to put into practice because of the unending demands of human-created society which have left most of us alienated from nature, observing “it” from a distance as an amorphous “other,” at best to be analyzed and described, rather than embraced, loved, and cherished as an intimate extension of ourselves.
In a nutshell, my technique involves developing a profound sensual connection to the natural word, a “sacred sensuousness” of sorts. By quieting the mind and focusing our attention on things other-than-human, our senses will quite literally reach outward into our surroundings, touching upon the source of our own being and re-connecting us with what is truly essential.
Nature immersion and absorption is all about embodiment. It is about rousing one’s senses and surrendering to direct experience. It is about losing one’s self and living entirely in the moment. It is about becoming a child again, full of wonder and excitement. It is about attaining a sense of lightness and freedom, as an antidote to our complicated and noisy lives.
If you learn to deeply connect with nature, to enter into a state of communion, you will not only connect with your earthly source, you will also benefit in countless other ways. For periods of time of your choosing, you will be released from endless thoughts and worries as you experience the greater calm that holds everything. You will become like a suckling babe, drawing nourishment from that which cradles you.
The earth is not only your mother, it is the source of endless delights. It provides you with an enormous, extended family that you can visit any time you wish, an inexhaustible world of friends (of all shapes and sizes) that, in a sense, are wondering where you have been. Perhaps now is the time to come into the open and say hello to all your brothers and sisters. Now is the time to invite them into your inner circle and into your heart. You have been gone so long — now is the time to return home.
Please let me know how you feel about this important matter by leaving your personal reflection below.
Note: “Sacred sensuousness” (a term I use in the third paragraph of my essay) is the title and subject of Chapter 3 in Brother David Steindl-Rast’s wonderful book The Listening Heart. Here is a relevant quote from that chapter: “Most people’s glorious gates of perception creak on rusty hinges. How much of the splendor of life is wasted on us because we plod along half-blind, half-deaf, with all our senses throttled and numbed by habituation.” Such a telling question indeed!
Hi, I loved your explanation of nature immersion. I just wrote a post on the same topic and linked back to you so my readers can get another perspective. I hope you don’t mind that I used a quote from your post – please let me know if you want me to take it down and just give a link instead. You can see it at https://www.wildozark.com/nature-immersion/.
[…] how Lang Elliot, of Music of Nature describes […]
Awesome site Lang, your recordings, video, and prose are un-matched by anyone, anywhere. I have a worn out cassette of yours from the mid-eighties called: Night Sounds. Keep us in awe! You have so much talent. I especially enjoy your warblers, although with their constant “butterfly” movements I’m sure they’re hard to photo/video. Thanks!
John: Good to hear you’ve gotten some mileage out of A Guide to Night Sounds!
This made my morning. Thank you Lang.
You’re welcome Ben. It has made my morning as well … actually, gathering the sounds, sequencing them, and publishing them on my blog, has made my DAY, if not my WEEK! I could go out every morning this week and do no better than this, although I would certainly love to add Raven croaks (they are in my neighborhood, but this morning they didn’t have anything to say).
Thank you, Lang.
It is good to know so many of us still feel the pull to nature. Like you, we all need to continue to nurture others and help them connect with with nature as well. Our world may depend upon it…
Brilliant and cannot be said enough. My childhood memories of stealing a walk beside a woodland brook, moist banks hosting legions of primroses and ferns – the smell, the sound, the light, the immersion are always my companion and solace. Thanks for putting it so beautifully. Can’t wait for more.
On January 3rd I slipped on ice as we hiked and crossed a road And I fell on my back and broke 4 ribs. I am just now starting to make wonderful progress. I will one day be 100% healed. Initially it was too painful to do but now I go out to a trail that surrounds small wetlands ponds every day to walk the loop in order to build up physical stamina as I couldn’t sleep well for 5 weeks due to pain. In my minds eye I see animals as I observe their prints in the snow and… Read more »
Great comment Susan! A really nice description of nature immersion and how it takes the focus off oneself.
Really liked your essay – sums up my feelings exactly ! And you never know who will find their way to your blog so it is great to share these heartfelt words
I get a little crazy without my daily dose of Nature. Don’t ever want to be without it!
I am 63 and every year i become more aware of how privileged I was to spend much of my childhood walking in the woods of Northern Minnesota and along the Mississippi there. I carry the sounds and sights of those years like a beloved heart. You remind me that it is still not far away. Thankyou
I grew up with woods and fields, lakes and marshes within minutes of where I lived. Luckily, I was allowed to roam without adult supervision. Without doubt, my time in nature has had a profound effect on my life and the germination/maturation of my work. But I was a nature child at heart. Several neighbor boys, all about my age, did not fall in love with the outdoors as I did. So maybe there is a genetic component, or else maybe our developing personalities are, at least in part, extensions of other lives, or other domains of which we know… Read more »
Thank you so much!!
As most of us early hunters know, the kill soon becomes less and less the goal. My best deer hunting year didn’t end with any success for the camp, but ten days of outdoors in new snow every two or three days, just magical!!! Dick
I hunted when I was a kid. I don’t anymore, but that doesn’t mean I’m absolutely against it. Last summer, while videotaping birds, I came across a fellow who was out for a walk. He was very curious about what I was doing and when I told him, he showed great interest. Turns out that his primary experience of nature was through hunting, but he was eager to discover other reasons to be “out there in nature.” When I told him about our excellent spring field ornithology course (given at the Lab of Ornithology), he showed great interest and even… Read more »
Thanks for a beautiful essay, Lang. I hope more humans will take your wise words to heart. Nature is an essential nutrient for my body, mind, and spirit, for sure.
Thanks Amy. I guess I’m just preaching to the choir here, but the essay may actually find its way into a book on the Music of Miracle of nature. I do believe I have a somewhat unique slant on the process an later essays will expand on those themes, such as the relationship between conventional knowledge (knowing facts, k\\\how to identify things, etc.) versus the quality of one’s experience.
Of course most birders know all about forest bathing even if they don’t call it that. Hikers too. Glad you are back.
Absolutely true. I’ve told my kids when i can no longer roam the woods on my own, to make sure they push me outside in my wheelchair where i am surrounded by nature. They can then leave me and i’ll be happy! Last night in the dark and a breezy cold 20’F, i walked down to the creek to check on my firefly larvae and hepatica that began blooming( really early for east TN) during a warm spell a couple of weeks ago. There,in my flashlight beam, a hardy cheerful hepatica continued to bloom, despite the snow, a promise of… Read more »
Do you live near Knoxville? I hope to get to the Gatlinburg area this spring for wildflowers. Hopefully the peak season won’t be too early this year.
Stop in and see us if you come down for the wildflowers.
Ken and Vicki Jenkins
So true. Thank you!
A friend of mine mentioned the term; forest bathing (woodland immersion) and I’ve heard of grounding (walking barefoot on the earth). I was born and raised in the city and moved to the country over half a lifetime ago. I do the nature immersion every time I walk out my door! But no grounding today as it’s below freezing.
Yes, in Japan they speak of Forest Bathing, which they call “Shinrin-yoku”.
They have actually gathered scientific evidence of the positive effect of walks in the forest. I would guess the same effects would happen for walks in any natural area, in meadows, mountains, wetlands, and the like. There’s even a brand new article about the healing effects of nature in National Geographic:
Wil: I know I’m preaching to the choir, but I think it’s worth putting in print anyway.
Love nature. Embracing nature means seeing all the ” negative ” that is there as well: creatures eating other creatures, eating their “children”, destroying their homes. Even the same species will attack it’s own . And yes, while in natural setting I do sense all that, and my favorite barefoot walks often are accompanied by prickers in my feet , or seeing garbage thrown by humans, the sound of a chainsaw . Please help us to accept all this during your descriptions of immersions.
You’re entirely correct Suzanne. Nature is not just one big happy family. While I find peace (due to loss of self) in immersing and observing nature, I make little effort to close anything out. When I run into garbage left by humans, I often make an effort to clean it up, though sometimes that is impractical. It’a all a bit of a paradox. Some of my most favorite areas here in upstate New York exist due to human disturbance. A grassy meadow is an example. And some of my favorite videos depict creatures devouring other creatures. A praying mantis eating… Read more »
I greet animals and plants, it’s true … rocks, and clouds … the sparkling dew. It’s no big deal, I mean, really, don’t you? nature is alive, you see, its creatures, birds and flowers and bees, are part of my extended family. would you not say hello to sibling or friend? converse with them to cheerful end? people rush blindly, to and fro, their brains full of nonsense they can’t let go. wake up, I say, and speak your mind to nature’s creations of every kind … hello bird … hello bee … hello flower … hello tree! have I… Read more »
I love your spontaneous poem. I enjoyed your explanation about accepting the tough-to-take along with the pleasant-to-take experiences, like offering a refreshment along the road. I’m not sure how people could find any kind of the peaceful like zone in the midst of a battlefield, and that’s the way I view what is going on in nature around us, but I will try to live in the good moments. I’m glad you have been able to do this .
I do work on it, on being positive whenever possible. It is just a personal choice. There is so much to be upset about, but what good does that do? If something is super upsetting, then I guess one should do something about it. But we certainly can’t fix the world. Nobody has ever been able to do that. So I’m hoping to enjoy to the fullest what little time I have left in life, be it one year or thirty. And celebrating nature seems basically to be a positive way to enjoy, although there are those who would say… Read more »