Work and worry are sturdy weeds, but joy requires cultivation. How and when do you cultivate joy? I cultivate much of my joy when walking through nature. It’s here with great beauty all around me that I’m able to think positively and creatively.
Nothing comes from nothing you know. We have to construct our own unique vision of a delightful life before we can make that life happen. This takes imagination, effort, and a certain amount of time uncluttered by work-a-day concerns. A stroll in nature provides the perfect opportunity for creative thought.
As we turn our eyes to behold the sights and sounds of nature, all that our Creator designed for us, we look away from sordid surroundings, from lack of beauty, from the imperfections in ourselves and those around us and with a little faith-vision we begin to see new possibilities for our lives.
Albert Einstein said, “The ideals which have always shone before me and filled me with the joy of living are goodness, beauty and truth.” What are your ideals? What do you imagine for your life? We only have so much time on earth to live these ideals so if we’re not thinking about them constantly, if we’re letting the busyness of daily life distract us, we will forget to have and do the very things that matter to us most.
Though it’s important to let our minds relax and ramble freely while walking in nature I find it helpful to have one particular subject I return to over and over in between the ramblings. That subject might be trying to find more time for reading in the course of a day or dreaming up a new ritual for afternoon tea or finding a better system for cleaning the closets. It could be anything, but if I limit my conscious thought to that one particular subject there’s a good chance I’ll have some concrete new ideas in place by the end of my walk.
The rest and recreation we need is the kind which actually recreates.
We can use our leisure to do all sorts of things, but to cultivate joy we must be sure those things have meaning to us. Cultivating joy requires creation, creation requires reflection and reflection requires solitude. Lord Byron, one of my “dead friends” said, “A life without reflection is a sad affair” and that’s because without reflection we can’t cultivate joy.
Besides being a chance to look into ourselves cultivating joy, studies show that a walk in nature helps us feel physically healthier, better about ourselves in general and just plain happier. You’d think a walk would make us feel more tired, but the reality is opposite. Exercise actually increases energy.
Sometimes on my walk I like to pause for a while in a nice spot reading a book, a book inspiring new ideas, a book like Voluntary Simplicity, by Duane Elgin. Duane spent much of his life in the East and became very interested in harmonious and purposeful living. In his book he quotes Richard Gregg who was a student of Gandhi’s teaching and who wrote in 1936…
“Voluntary simplicity involves both inner and outer condition. It means singleness of purpose, sincerity and honesty within, as well as avoidance of exterior clutter, of many possessions irrelevant to the chief purpose of life. It means an ordering and guiding of our energy and our desires, a partial restraint in some directions in order to secure greater abundance of life in other directions. It involves a deliberate organization of life for a purpose. Of course, as different people have different purposes in life, what is relevant to the purpose of one person might not be relevant to the purpose of another… the degree of simplification is a matter for each individual to settle for himself.”
Though we have all sorts of our own thoughts to explore and develop it’s important to include new ideas into the mix. Reading good books anywhere, any time is an enriching experience so why not read in nature surrounded by so much beauty?
You have to find places where you recognize yourself.
It seems to me we’re happiest when we’re surrounded by people and places that are in sync with us. Where would those places be for you? I’m most comfortable in coffee shops writing letters, in art museums, in restaurants with white table cloths and in nature. To create the life you’ve always dreamed of you must know where you should and shouldn’t be spending most of your time. A daily walk in nature is a ritual I created for myself, one that serves me well. Maybe it would serve you well too.
“Romanticism is beauty without bounds — the beautiful infinite.” —Jean Paul Richter (1763-1825)
I’m a Romantic and all Romantics love and need nature. I’m also a music lover and some say music is the most romantic of all the arts. For me music and nature go hand in hand so I love bringing the music of Romantic composers along with me on my nature walks. Beethoven’s “Moonlight Sonata” or Debussy’s “Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun” make for lovely accompaniments to my visual pleasure. Chopin, Tchaikovsky, Dvorak… there are so many composers who were as influenced and inspired by nature as I am, taking their music along with me doubles the joy.. What would a movie be without a soundtrack? A walk benefits from a soundtrack too.
If you’re a Romantic like me you owe it to yourself to find ways to live more romantically every day. It’s easier than you think. Regardless of your time or budget you can walk along and dream up all sorts of rituals for yourself, rituals like celebrating your own special days (I have my weekly Country Inn Days), indulging in breakfast in bed, picnics and other delights, or simply prioritizing time for romance. Barbara Taylor Bradford wrote a book called “Living Romantically Every Day” and it’s filled with ideas you can make your own as you walk along in nature. That walk is a romantic experience in itself. You don’t need to be in places like Paris, Rome, Boston or San Francisco in order to live and be inspired romantically. Nature is everywhere and its beauty has power.
I do enjoy Romantic cities with their vivid enduring images; white towns surrounding an elm-shaped green; mellowed brick and graying stone; narrow cobbled streets along a tangy waterfront, ancient architecture, but I can be equally inspired by the simple beauty of nature in my very own town and you probably have lots of beautiful nature in and around your town too. Take advantage of it.
No matter how good you feel before a walk in nature you’ll feel even better after one. And if you’re feeling low there’s nothing like the inspiration and comfort you’ll find in God’s great out-of-doors. It’s impossible for any alert person to stroll along a lake or saunter through the woods without something magical happening to their spirit.
Why do you suppose there is so much variety in the beauty of nature? Why aren’t all the trees the same? Behind all philosophy and religion there is one thing for certain; the world and everything in it exists for some purpose. We’re here for some purpose too and to feel our happiest we must love our life and believe it has significance, but we can’t love what we don’t really know. Socrates said, “Know thyself” and Shakespeare said, “To thine own self be true.”
The hard work we do doesn’t get us down, its the work and activity we do which doesn’t connect to our true purpose, to our spirit. Doing the wrong things drain us. By taking time out each and every day to know ourselves better we can keep our lives on track and when we take a walk in nature noticing every beautiful thing God created with its intelligence and purpose, well, I think that beauty inspires us to become the artists of our own lives, cultivating joy, and working to create the life we imagine for ourselves.
So it’s not JUST a walk in the park. That walk is a GREAT activity. It can do a lot for our physical, intellectual and spiritual lives. It can even be a social activity if we walk with a friend, but shhhhhhhhhhhhh. . .
SILENCE IS GOLDEN.