The Healing Power of the Natural World

Tuesday, September 7, 2010 13:11

By Ellen Brown

The natural world has always been a sanctuary for me, particularly in tough times: a sacred place to let go and recharge.

Perhaps the renowned writer and environmentalist, Rachel Carson, put it best when she said, “There is something infinitely healing in the repeated refrain of nature – the assurance that dawn comes after night and spring after the winter.”

I find these repeated refrains in nature, these absolute guarantees, so comforting. They remind me that the dawn will always come and that gray clouds will eventually give way to sunny skies.

Yet as comforting as these natural patterns are, I sometimes forget about how important it is for me to spend time in nature, and that’s what happened recently, when my Mom died. I was feeling incredibly out of sorts, but didn’t question it because I was grieving after all, and it’s “normal” to be out of sorts when you’ve lost someone you love.

Then one day, I received a flyer in the mail for a retreat. It was an invitation to spend a day in nature doing absolutely nothing, and my heart did a happy dance – a little flutter flop. My heart was saying “yes please. Me, me.” So I signed up. And it was just what my heart desired: a day immersed in the beauty and music of nature.

I should tell you that one of my favorite things in the world is to wander around in nature, touching this leaf and that flower, giving my eyes and fingers free rein to explore the shapes and colors and textures. Basking in the beauty of it all like a child.

That day, as I set out on the windy path through the woods, with its lacey hemlocks and moss-covered ledges, I knew where I wanted to end up. I wanted to set up camp on one of the ledges and look up into the green summer canopy and just be.

After spreading out a blanket I’d carried with me, I laid down on one of the cool ledges, looking up into the trees. As I settled in for the day, all the worries that kept my mind churning slowly drifted away until it was just me and my breath and the wind in the trees. After awhile, I felt a warmth wash over me. An ahhhhhhhhhhhhh. I was home. Returned to the earth. At one with all creatures and plants.

I laid there watching the light weaving in and out of the leaves and the clouds shape shifting through the sky. It was a feast for the eyes –lush and sumptuous and healing. I felt blessed to be spending time in this sacred place. Blessed to be alive.

On that day, I was reminded again of the healing power of nature. Because no matter what we’re going through, no matter how difficult life seems, the natural world is always waiting for us with its sweet embrace. Soothing us with its melodies. Reminding us that life is constantly changing and this too shall pass.

So what does YOUR sanctuary look like? Is it someplace in nature, or an entirely different setting?

I’d love to hear what you have to say. Please leave a comment, here, on Stepping Stones, by scrolling down to the bottom of the page.

Are you dealing with job loss, the death of a loved one, or another challenging life transition? If so, I’d love to help out. Visit my website at to sign up for an introductory coaching session or a coaching package that’s right for you. Since coaching sessions are conducted by phone, I can work with clients anywhere in the world.

Ellen Brown is a certified professional coach based in Cleveland, OH.

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6 Responses to “The Healing Power of the Natural World”

  1. Stacey Curnow says:

    September 8th, 2010 at 12:52 am

    Hi Ellen! Thank you so much for this reminder! The weather here (in NC) has been astoundingly beautiful the past few days, and every time I step outside I am just filled with gratitude. Today I spent a lovely few minutes watching a “wooly worm” caterpillar in my garden, and those moments, just watching him meander through the tomato plants, was one of the small highlights of my day. Beautiful! Take care – s

  2. Ellen Brown says:

    September 9th, 2010 at 8:34 am

    I love that image of the “wooly worm,” Stacey. Yours is a good reminder that we can take a few moments out of our busy schedules and just notice what’s happening around us. There are “wooly worms” everywhere : )

  3. Kim Vazquez says:

    September 10th, 2010 at 5:07 pm

    Hi Ellen,

    This is a solid reminder. I’m with you. In fact, I can actually feel myself getting a little uptight if I haven’t spent enough time outside. It’s like medicine to me. Sometimes I can’t get away so I settle for sitting on the back patio and staring at leaves or flowers. That works. But, the best medicine of all for me is water. Large bodies of water. :)

    Thanks for your post. Peace & Love~ Kim

  4. Ellen Brown says:

    September 10th, 2010 at 7:23 pm

    Actually, I love your idea of finding easier ways to connect with nature, because sometimes we just can’t make it to the park or ocean. I’m with you on the water thing. I love spending time at the ocean!

  5. Dorothy Sander says:

    September 21st, 2010 at 8:34 am

    I was swept away by the description of your journey. It could have been me speaking those words, particularly after my mother died. The whole process of caring for an aging parent while watching them slip away chips away at all that holds us in place. Throughout that period of time in my life, nature was my constant source of strength ~ it rooted me like the tall oak tree when the ground was shifting beneath my feet. It’s been a couple of years since then and I am being drawn, once again, to a nature retreat. The heat has been long and intense here in NC this year and I long for cool breezes and wide open spaces. Thanks for sharing your beautiful thoughts and words with us.

  6. Ellen Brown says:

    September 21st, 2010 at 8:45 am

    Hi Dorothy,

    Thank you for your kind words about my post. What you say about watching an aging parent die is SO true and very much resonates with me. It sounds like we have a lot in common. Thank you for dropping by to share your thoughts.

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