Tuning into nature isn’t an abstract thing or a nice to have. In this TED talk, Jon Young explains that every time we pay attention with our senses to something in the natural world, we’re growing our sensory integration, we’re tethering ourselves to the world beyond our own minds with little threads and each time we do it, the thread thickens until it is a cord, a rope, until we are no longer isolated, but caught up in a web, a web that was generated by our own willingness to pay attention, and grow into relationship. That, he says, has been shown by science, to be the key to happiness. This is the specific formula: “sensory integration is the foundation for emotional regulation.” Or, as I translate that, if you want to move from anxiety to calm, start weaving yourself into connection, by just smelling, hearing, seeing, touching, tasting, what is around you, what is outside.
Repairing emotional isolation by reawakening deep nature connection | Jon Young | TEDxGrandPark
Below are some extracts from Jon’s talk.
“We are in a time when colonialism has blinded us and Mother Earth needs us to connect with nature again, we need to do this now and we need to do it together.”
For us, we build threads with all the beings around us, the birds, the animals, the trees – and over time, with the stars, with the moon, with each other as human beings, with our ancestors, and with the unborn, and those threads grow thicker with every interaction, with every observation, with every question, with every story we tell to each other about what we’ve seen, what we’ve learned, what we’ve experienced, and eventually those threads grow thicker and thicker until they’ve become ropes.
That’s what we’re hard-wired for. All of us.
These people are related to the collective ancestors of all of us. We are all designed for strings to become ropes.
You know what that feels like with your pet, with your best friend, with the person that you love the most. Can you imagine what it would feel like with all aspects of nature? And yes, it can be done, in the city, in the country, in the deep wilderness. It’s just about building bonds.
What comes out of that? What’s the gift of this?
It doesn’t come out in one day.
We become more loving, more present, our genius becomes more obvious, we’d be happier, more vital with electricity in our body, more able to focus and to listen to each other deeply and with empathy. We become more visionary. It just comes intrisnically, emerges from our enrvous system. We feel alive. We feel in love with life.
We share these webs of connection with all of life around us.
Today so many people are in isolation, loneliness, depression, anxiety.
If we can re-awaken this ancient connection, we can find that peace again. We can use applied mindfulness and we can employ some teachers to help us who don’t charge a thing.
The foundation is that we need to awaken our vision to use our peripheral vision, and to use our eyes to identify things. We need to use our whole body when we tell stories – if we talk about a snake we should be the snake. When we hear, we should listen to the four directions, in front of us, behind us, out to the far right and the far left, listen for the quietest sound. And listen for the patterns of the birds and animals. We should use our skin to sense the wind, to feel the heat, to use our fingers for the tactile touch but also to be aware of our breathing in our bodies and how they’re positioned. And we use our sense of smell to detect the changes in our landscapes, the seeasons and the environment. We use our inner senses, our intution, to feel. And we use our taste to interact with our food, to really communicate with it.
We want to use all of our senses in our memory when we tell stories, we want to pull all our senses in the circle into our memory. We call that the storyteller’s mind.
And from that place of awakened senses, then we build the ropes with the birds, the hazards, the ecology of the area.
This is called sensory integration – when we pull all our senses together and make that nature connection with awakened senses, we get emotional regulation, which basically means, we’re happy, we’re healthy.
Those mindfulness teachers available to you are birds.
We literally share a common language with them and are literally hardwired to share it. How does it feel when you tune in to a bird singing and let a little thread go there? Think about where in your body you feel it – when you see a bird happily eating.
If we have a small awareness, we make a big disturbance to the world around us. Everything feels us coming a long way out.
Our awareness can grow bigger than our disturbance – and we move more gently, and the birds no longer fear us in our own neighbourhood. We’re recognized. And the birds will tell us things, because we’re not disturbing.
We can learn to sit still and practice with our mindfulness mentors – the birds, the squirrels, the deer. If you go there everyday, they’ll become comfortable with you.
You’ll start to realize you have neighbours that are always there. And you’ll develop that energy of the sit spot, a walking piece of nature, that’s your nervous system integrating. You can integrate these experiences, by telling these stories, to someone who wants to hear it. Together, we can reclaim our stories, and rebuild our ropes, and activate the nervous system that connects us to our ancestors, and become supernatural!