It’s difficult to imagine taking a break from your busy life, with all the responsibilities expected of you; your responsibilities at work need to be fulfilled, the chores need to be accomplished, and the children need to be taken care of before the end of the day.
For me, taking a break from my hectic school life was impossible to imagine, but somehow, persuaded by my mother and on a flash of recklessness, I managed to push myself out of my comfort zone and try something uncharacteristic: I applied to be a volunteer at Walden West, an outdoor science school for elementary schoolers.
When I arrived at the camp, I was skeptical and instantly regretted my decision, stressed about making up a week’s worth of work, worried about interacting with children, and despairing about being disconnected from technology and the rest of the world for a whole week. But throughout the week, my perspective made a dramatic transition.
For instance, I gradually became more mindful of myself and my surroundings. Through the daily six-hour hikes, you experience constant exposure to actual forests, with natural wildlife only seen in textbooks, age-old trees that tower over you and real forest dirt and soil, covered up by concrete and floors in our daily lives. And once you’re constantly immersed in nature, you begin to see subtleties in your surroundings impossible to notice in everyday life: the tracings on the trail, the crisp smell of bark and the sound of crackling leaves and twigs. And through these observations comes new discoveries and feelings that are almost impossible to replicate in daily life, such as the excitement you feel when encountering a banana slug, the wonder you feel when spotting deer grazing nearby, and the awe you experience when you see the effects of a recent landslide.
I also discovered the magnificence and incredible power of nature. One of the most memorable experiences that changed my mindset forever was the night hike, where I hiked with my hiking group during the night. Almost completely in the dark, I was forced to rely solely on the sound of footsteps and vague shadows of people in front of me; entirely dependent on my senses and nature and completely aware of the moment, I realized my insignificance and powerlessness in comparison to nature, gaining a newfound awe and appreciation for the vastness and majesty of nature as well.
And that was all the beginning. Through this camp, I learned to free myself from distractions and to simply blanken my mind, to enjoy and be aware of the moment. Free from notifications on my phone, free from the worry of assignments, free from stress about friends and drama, I could simply live in the present, and I truly enjoyed myself and my interactions with nature.
And now, back at home, reminiscing about the camp and typing up this newsletter, I’ve come to a startling realization. I’m beginning to forget how I felt at camp: the feeling of being aware of myself, of letting go of worries, and of enjoying the moment. As I sit here and type, I’m completely oblivious to my surroundings. My ears have begun to tune out everything besides the clicking of my fingernails hitting the keyboard; my eyes have begun to glaze over and ignore everything besides the screen outside of me. I’m simply doing a task, not noticing what’s around me, and although this is beneficial for saving time and energy, it’s dangerous when applied constantly, as I often forget to be mindful of myself and enjoy the moment.
For me, this is a mindset I am trying to change, and I’ve realized that a key part to changing this mindset is nature. By simply stepping outside and going to a park, I can keep in touch with nature and remember the serenity and happiness I obtained just by walking or sitting down. It’s a great way to relax, tone down, and take a breather from the stress and responsibilities we all have.
Overall, sometimes we all need to hit pause on our life, and connecting with nature is one way to allow that small escape from life. So if you’re feeling overwhelmed, hit pause on your life, take a step outside and enjoy the healing effects from nature, and remember: Live in the moment!