Today’s post is by Leah Rampy
Nature heals. Numerous articles have reported on research documenting various healing properties of nature. Those recovering from surgery heal faster and with fewer relapses when they see a tree instead of a brick wall from their hospital window. Residents in Toronto reported feeling better and having fewer health problems when there were more trees on their street. Gardeners were no doubt affirmed to hear that a strain of bacterium in the soil triggers the release of serotonin that in turn elevates mood and decreases anxiety. Children who grow up on farms are less likely to develop asthma. The microbes in the soil beneath our feet contribute to our health by way of the foods we eat.
I find these studies fascinating; I love being reminded of the synergies of all living things. Still I wonder what more is possible. I notice that when I come openhearted and fully present to the beauty, complexity, and rawness of the world, I find healing beyond what science has quantified. Fully present, I open my heart to wonder and my spirit soars.
A new study suggests that a sense of wonder promotes loving-kindness and altruism, helps reduce inflammation in our bodies and improves our immune system. Pretty impressive! Yet, I’m speaking of a healing beyond even that. Awe and wonder bring us fully into the Presence of the Sacred; our sense of separateness vanishes as we bathe in this vast ocean of Love.
One of the reasons that I love Shalem’s pilgrimages is the opportunity and encouragement to experience wonder. As we visit sites that are drenched with thousands of years of prayer, hold our intention to be open and available to the Holy, and allow the natural beauty of these places to seep into us, we are ripened for experiencing awe and wonder. We grow ever more deeply toward wholeness and become more fully who we truly are.
While pilgrimages offer the blessings of extended time in nature, they are not the only way toward healing in nature! Moments of awe can be found by lying on your back looking at the vastness of the night sky, knowing that what you can see – as amazing as it is – is only a fraction of a fraction of what’s out there. Take a magnifying glass and really look at the richly and beautifully complex landscapes in a dot of moss. Watch the sunsets. There are a myriad of ways to open our hearts; being fully present in nature is not the only way, but it is a way. We have a choice to take this journey.
Reflect for a moment: what is inviting you? What part of the natural world invokes for you that sense of wonder in the presence of something so vast it transcends understanding? What walk, what vista, what tree or stone helps you know in your very being that the trouble that seemed so important moments ago is not insurmountable? What encompasses your senses so completely that there is no other moment but the present? What invites you to exhale long and deep and whisper, “All is well?”
“The world is full of magic things, patiently waiting for our senses to grow sharper,” wrote W. B. Yeats. We can choose daily doses of the magic and wonder of the world; embrace it with open hearts; and let it lead us through Grace to healing and wholeness.
Leah Rampy is a retreat and pilgrimage leader and the former Executive Director of Shalem Institute. She is honored to be one of the leaders for Reclaiming Our Oneness with Creation: Shalem’s contemplative pilgrimage to Iona, Scotland, in June. Leah and Jamie Deering, a Shalem graduate, have designed and will be leading Uniting with Earth’s Rhythm: Shalem’s first pilgrimage in the beautiful Pacific Northwest in September 2016. Leah and her husband David are working to restore the natural habitat on a small farm in the Shenandoah Valley. She blogs about nature and farming and shares photos on Facebook.