Running up the mountain or around the pond

20141122_094656DSCN0977

At the beginning of the year we (my father, brother, husband and I) decided that we were going to run the Knysna Marathon. Since then I’ve done many long runs as part of my training.

For our first longer training session my husband and I went for a run in the Helderberg Nature Reserve, which is very close to where we live in South Africa. The farther we jogged up the mountain the quieter the chatter in my mind became. Until I discovered that I was completely in the now. I was not planning my future, what we were going to eat (or not eat) or thinking about the past. It was just me and nature. I could feel the sun on my shoulders, hear my heart beat and smell the fynbos.

I’m not sure if you’ve ever felt it, but whenever I’m in the mountains I get a feeling of being connected.  Not only connected with myself but with nature as well.

We’ve been living in Boston for a few months. As a result I’ve discovered new training routes. My favorite one is to run to the Fresh Pond in Cambridge. It is a beautiful pond surrounded with trees. What I find interesting is that I experience the same emotion of ‘connectedness’ running around the pond than I had when I ran up the mountain in South Africa.

The mountain gives me a feeling of strength, stability and patience. I guess it’s because the mountain has always been there. It has stood the test of time. It has been burned by the sun and washed by rain, but keeps on standing tall. The pond instead gives me a feeling of serenity and softness. It’s as if the flow of the water connects with the rhythm of my heart. I imagine the branches of the trees folding around me and rocking me like a mother rocks her baby. It feels like home…

This made me wonder what it is about nature that awakens these emotions in me. So, I did a bit of research on the topic. Not much to my surprise a term that defines my experience already exists. The construct ‘nature connectedness’ refers to the integration we feel with nature or our emotional connection towards nature. The research further indicates that being connected with nature can improve our well-being and happiness. However, it is estimated that we are becoming more dis-connected from nature. Some studies found that we spend on average only 10% of our time in nature.

I want to challenge you today to spend some time in nature. Like Calvin Coolidge said:

There is new life in the soil for every man. There is healing in the trees for tired minds and for our overburdened spirits, there is strength in the hills, if only we will lift up our eyes. Remember that nature is your great restorer.

Go out and connect with nature!

Advertisements

Cinderella and your True Self

DSCN0705

I’m privileged to travel much this year. During one of my flights from South Africa to Boston I watched the new Cinderella movie. Something I wouldn’t usually do if I were not stuck in a plane for 12 hours. There was a scene in the movie that resonated with me. Cinderella was on her way to the prince’s ball when she took a final glance of herself in the mirror. While she was looking in the mirror the narrator of the story said: ‘The biggest risk we take is to show the world our true self’.

I decided to take the risk and to show the world my true self. This blog is one of my first steps.

We often read about the term ‘True Self’ in the media but what does it mean?  According to D.W. Winnicott (1960) your ‘True self’ is your spontaneous, creative and real you. It is simply being.  This made me wonder why do we regard showing the world our ‘True Self’ as such a big risk? Wendy Palmer writes, in her book ‘The Intuitive Body’, that growing up seems to be a journey into fear.  That as we get older our major task is to protect ourselves from getting hurt.

I always wanted to blog but allowed fear to hold me back.  I knew that by starting this blog I was lowering my guard and opening myself to the opinion of others. I was trying to protect myself from criticism. What if just being me is not enough?

Just before Cinderella’s mother passed away she talked about courage and kindness as important qualities of life. I realized that I needed to be kind to myself. Give me the chance to be the person that I’m meant to be. This is easier said than done. It is difficult to find opportunities in this competitive world where time is money. However, I learned that it is not about finding opportunities but about having the courage to create them. It is also about not needing circumstances (including myself) to be perfect. It is a process of developing kinder-lenses to look at the world as well as at myself.

There are many people who show the world their ‘True Self’ on a daily basis. In doing that they are improving the lives of others and giving me the courage to face my fears. I want to invite you to join me on this journey. Start something you always wanted. Take the courageous step and put on those kinder-lenses. Be your ’True Self’.