I have always been a self-proclaimed “city girl.” I love to walk, and I love to be able to walk to do errands, to go to coffee shops, or to meet up with friends. Considering myself an “urban hiker,” I was one of the few people I knew who actually walked in Los Angeles, and I felt freedom in the mobility that my feet offered me.
Stepping out of that city lifestyle, I am now in nature all the time. Living on campgrounds, I am surrounded by trees and wildlife. I was missing, however, that city walk where I felt like I could be productive, and walk. I didn’t have to drive to a store, and I liked the ease of living within walking distance of several great places to shop.
What I didn’t realize was that being able to hike out in nature offers such a different opportunity. I am not racing to get to and from somewhere. I am walking just to walk, pausing when I want to as I enjoy the craftsmanship in a well-tended footpath, or to curiously wonder what type of moss is growing on the bark of a tree.
I was reading an article the other day about a Japanese technique called “forest bathing,” that is shown to boost immunity, alleviate stress, and lower blood pressure and heart rate. As I walk through the trees and breathe in fresh air, I hear the gentle message to “just be” — to be present in that very moment. The presence of mind shows me how to relax when it’s time to relax and create when it’s time to create. No worry. No stress. Nothing to do other than what is right before me.
Simplifying this view on productivity has decreased my worry level, which is something I have struggled with often. In the city, I have been prone to insomnia and anxiety. While I am not sure I am destined to be a full-time country girl, as I love the creativity, diversity, and productivity the city has to offer, I know that taking the time to forest bathe is something I am going to take the time to do, no matter what.
This kind of nature walking has changed me. I notice my heart rate slow down. I notice an ease in my breathing and my worries slipping away. What is more important in that moment than noticing the changing color of the trees, or the gentle trickle of the water over the rocks in a stream? My concerns just melt away.
In the city, I found myself susceptible to honking horns, graffiti, and type-A personalities, all trying to get in last-minute shopping before a dinner party. There was a hustle and bustle that I would get hooked into, noticing my stress level increasing with the tempers and demeanors around me. The pace was fast, and I constantly felt like I had to catch up to it.
Out here, the biggest message for me so far has been for me to slow down. There is no need for a frenetic pace to prove I am important or to feel productive. I am satisfied with less in my life. Less stress. Less panic. Less noise.
To live a simple life is not only about having fewer things, or commitments. Minimalism is about a slower pace, being satisfied with less, and nature is the perfect playground for that simplicity.
Nature is having me enjoy the delicious pauses in the silence. As I breathe in and breathe out, I find a clarity of purpose and what’s important becomes very simple to me.