by Meredith Heller | Posted 10/22/21 | Updated 6/26/22
We often forget that WE ARE NATURE. Nature is not something separate from us. So when we say that we have lost our connection to nature, we've lost our connection to ourselves. —Andy Goldsworthy
Being in nature is the best way I know to connect with myself. From nature, I learn how to be human. For many indigenous cultures, the natural world is the teacher and our connection with nature determines the quality of our connection with ourselves, others, and all of life.
My whole life, nature has been my refuge and my temple where I go to remember who I am. Every morning I go for a hike, immersing myself in the natural world and communing with what's inside me and out. During my twenties and thirties, I spent fifteen summers solo backpacking and vision questing, through every national park in the western United States.
All summer I backpacked by myself through the wilderness for weeks at a time, hiking, fasting, and meditating. I wanted to dissolve the layers of conditioning that shaped me before I knew I had a choice. I wanted to discover who I truly was, why I was here, what mattered to me, and what I really needed to survive and be happy. I wanted to experience what I called my essence, the deepest part of myself. And once I had a sense of it, touched and tasted it, I wanted to help others know themselves more deeply. I learned a lot about myself during my summer sojourns. I learned how to be alone, how to rely on myself and be resourceful. I learned that I am connected to the whole web of life. I learned that I prefer to live simply, in tune with the cycles of nature and my own tides of ebb and flow, that having enough is plenty for me, and that the source of my happiness is within me.
If you've never done a nature retreat or a vision quest, I recommend it, though I suggest going with a friend or group. I still love to spend extended time alone in nature, off grid, but if it's not something you have experience with, try it first with a buddy. I love living outdoors. I spend my summers camping and writing at the Yuba River in Northern California, or soaking in the hot springs in Big Sur, or kayaking with whales in Baja, or swimming with wild dolphins in Hawaii. Most of the year I sleep with the doors of my cottage wide open, to the sounds and smells, to the fresh air. By mid-December it's chilly, but even then, I sleep with my window open. I have grown accustomed to falling asleep to cricket song and waking to morning birds.
Let's journey together through the cycle of seasons, within and without, to see ourselves in the mirror of nature and to access a terrain rich in transformation and treasure. The cycle of seasons offers an abundant palette for poetry. All around us, nature's seasons are changing throughout the year, and within us we also experience seasons.
Inner seasons are the cycles of birth and growth, death and transformation, that are natural to all life. Our inner seasons provide metaphors for and insight into the life lessons we are journeying through. And just because it's one season outside doesn't mean it's the same season inside us. For example, right now it's winter where I live, but I have so much energy and so many ideas that it feels like I'm in the middle of my very own springtime. Or it could be summer where I live, but I'm so exhausted I can barely move, and that tells me that I'm in a winter cycle; so I'll rest, allow my roots to burrow deep for nutrients and rejuvenation, and see what treasures are there for me. Personal soul seasons can change and shift day to day and week to week, and I've learned to welcome each season with curiosity and acceptance.
While my favorite season is summer, I pay close attention to all the seasons, and I find that each is juicy with information and gifts to help me navigate my own cycles. You get to figure out which season you are currently journeying through, what each season's lessons and gifts are for you, and what it means for you at this point in your life. The insights we gain from each season change as we age and grow. Below are examples of how I experience each soul season. Allow my suggestions to inform you, but feel free to come up with your own. It can be fun to revisit this invitation at the beginning of each new season.
Winter is the cycle to go within, into the fertile darkness. It is a time of stillness and renewal, when you allow yourself to cease all the doingness and give yourself the gift of beingness. Get warm and cozy. Rest and sleep. Allow your roots to effortlessly extend into the dark earth and feed from the soil of your deep self. As you let go, it can feel like a death, but it is in this in-between space, this dreamtime, where you become part of the mystery of life. Here the seeds for everything new do their own deep work of becoming.
Spring is the cycle to burst open like a seed, with new life and new ideas. Everything is possible. Life is hatching and blossoming all around you and within you. Join the chorus of voices reaching up for the warmth of the sun. Cross-pollinate your ideas with the ideas of others, and watch them grow. Springtime is the energy of a child, full of life, love, and promise; it is energy in motion. Wake up. Rise and stretch. Greet the day with curiosity after the long winter. It's time to connect and play!
Summer is the cycle to expand and express. Get out and explore. Engage all the ripe and delicious energy of springtime, and share it with others in creative expression and communion with nature. Take advantage of the long summer days and warm summer nights. Grab your friends. Travel. Go camping. Stargaze. Moon-bathe. Immerse yourself in the mystical beauty of sunrise and sunset. Make up songs and poems. Dance and paint. Hike and swim. Pick wild blackberries, and eat them until your fingers and tongue are stained purple. Remember, you are alive!
Autumn is the cycle to harvest, a time to reap the treasures from your year. Go for a long walk. Reflect, gather, and honor what you've learned and how you've grown. Acknowledge all you've created and contributed. Gather with community. Share your fruits, and let your labors of love nourish you and others during this time of culmination and celebration before returning to the dark mystery of winter.
INVITATION: Take a moment and tune in with yourself. Feel the quality of your energy. Think about what soul season you are currently experiencing. Is this a sleepy, slowdown winter dreamtime? Are you just waking and hatching into the springtime of a new you? Are you in the middle of summer, full of sunshine energy? Is it time to reap and share your autumn harvest?
JUST WRITE! Write about which season your soul is journeying through. What feelings and thoughts are you experiencing in this particular soul season? What are you learning about yourself and your cycles? Try using nature metaphors and similes such as: my heart is on fire like the sun, my body is as slow as mud, my ideas are blooming like wildflowers. Look for the opportunities, lessons, insights, and gifts of your soul season. Write it!
Winter — Mikayla, 11
Winter is a cycle of sadness
where everyone takes their own path of darkness
and feels every moment of this season.
Even the stars start to dim,
and the sun shares its last ray of joy.
The ode of the blackberry is so dark
that not even a single animal can eat its soul.
The loneliness of Winter
is like the happiness of Spring
except kind of the opposite.
I feel like the inside of an apple, soft and hard.
The flowers inside of me close in the Winter.
Every morning I wake up like a sloth,
slow and hungry.
Winter is a cycle.
Copyright ©2021 Meredith Heller. All rights reserved.
Meredith Heller studied writing and education in the graduate departments of Johns Hopkins University, Naropa University, and Goddard College. ....