The secret to success. Find your awareness.
words: George Maguire
Humans are drawn to nature. I think we feel it, like an extended family tree. As a presence, a teacher and as the overarching ‘stuff’ of our existence. Our awareness of nature, like our awareness of anything, varies in intensity, depending on our where we are and what we are doing. I’d imagine that few people feel the ebb and flow of nature’s cycles in a spreadsheet or in an email inbox. These things are boxy and linear, built to work in straight lines for exact outcomes; the opposite of the kind of natural selection taking place in nature. To experience nature is to feel at home, or at least, to check-in for a while.
These points always become more obvious when we become more rural. Where the city structures end, the wild networks flourish. For my last two weekends, I have found myself with friends, packing a tent, and setting out to live in a campsite for a few days. Anyone familiar with Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs will know what happens next. First, you find the right pitch, a keen eye on the weather. Will it rain? Are we camping near a river – insects? Are we too near the toilet? Is there an un-budging rock under where your bed will be? It’s definably a checklist, but it’s never written down, or formalised. It’s felt.
Establishing and affirming these basic needs requires an awareness and enactment of shelter. Our priorities are firmly in place. We need to feel that we have a safe place to sleep and that we will be sufficiently warm during the night. We need something to eat, ideally hot. For now, usual routines such as phones, Wi-Fi, TV, and supermarkets take a backseat.
As we check-in to nature, we check-out of technology and the accompanying modern ideals. Surely this is a good thing as we open ourselves up to unpack a fresh set of ideas, intelligence and motivations that we can then take back to daily life. An oven and a hot shower do not feel the same after their absence. We appreciate them far more.
With the rise of meditation apps and 45 min corporate yoga, words such as awareness and mindfulness have risen to the top of minds and search engines. If awareness is defined as ‘knowledge or perception of a situation or fact’ I find myself asking - what does this mean for society? If awareness is relative to perceivable inputs – or situations - are we looking in the wrong places? As succinctly put by the late Susan Sontag ‘Camping is a solvent of morality. It neutralizes moral indignation, sponsors playfulness.’ Maybe, to become more human and to live more in the flow of things, all we need to do is protect and explore our wild areas more.
Balancing this equation makes some kind of deep eternal sense to me. To understand where humans are going in terms of innovation, but also to perceive and care for our evolutionary roots and what Tony Riddle calls our ‘ancestral eyes’. For me this looks like growing more plants, more cooking from scratch, more camping, more trail running and more travel. These are just some of the easily accessible gateways of nature. You will not love what you don’t know.