The Pain of Society

I was walking through the main street of a small town not far from where I live. As I strolled down the street I passed a lane way from which I could hear a young women calling out for someone to get off her, “get off me, get off me, let me go”.  At first I associated these calls with young children playing, perhaps a brother and a sister with the brother teasing and holding down his sister. However, something was not right, the screaming sounded desperate, it contained a much deeper sense of urgency, the sound of someone in trouble. So I turned and started towards the lane as people from the surrounding shops began also to investigate.

Just at that moment a young man come running from an apartment followed by a young women, say 19, crying and screaming chasing after the young man. They ran up the street and disappeared down another lane way. People gathered in the street suggesting their own version of events to fit the scenario. Some suggesting the young man suffered from mental illness and some suggesting the young women was simply seeking attention, was not right in her own way.

The police were called.

The raw emotion I experienced was distressing, all I was concerned with was the safety of both people.  I could feel the pain both of them were experiencing.  I could see it in their eyes and hear it in their screams.  Has this become part of their daily life, are they experiencing this deep level of pain on a frequent basis, have they become familiar with this pain?

I’m wondering what has happened to them, have they found peace?

Before I started writing this post I googled “The pain of society”, numerous results come up but most talked about the physical pain we feel as a result of chronic disease, talking mostly about pain and pain management. There were links to pain societies all over the globe, Ireland, Singapore, Australia, Hong Kong, America all researching physical pain and its management.

What I was looking for however were sites dedicated to researching and reducing the emotional pain people are suffering, the pain and suffering within our societies. The statistics are astounding;

  • One in five (20%) Australians aged 16-85 experience a mental illness in any year.
  • Every day, at least six Australians die from suicide and a further thirty people will attempt to take their own life
  • Men are at greatest risk of suicide but least likely to seek help.
  • In 2010 men accounted for over three-quarters (76.9%) of deaths from suicide however, an estimated 72% of males don’t seek help for mental disorders.
  • Attempted suicide is also an important issue with estimates that in Australia over 60,000 people a year attempt to take their own lives, the majority being women.
  • One in seven Australians will experience depression in their lifetime
  • Depression is the number one cause of non-fatal disability in Australia (24%)

The list of statistics goes on and on and the picture fails to get any brighter.

What is going on? What’s creating this pain in our society?

A search of the net reveals many, many pages discussing how being present in nature is good for mental health, makes one feel happier, brings peace and can create a feeling of contentment. When one thinks about how we walk in nature rather than down a busy street, sit on a beach and watch the sunrise over the ocean than whatch it rise on TV. This feeling has been theorised to suggest humans naturally like to be around other living things, a theory developed by famous ecologist, biologist and all round smart guy, Edward O Wilson.

From the scientific world a study titled Nature experience reduces rumination and subgenual prefrontal cortex activation http://www.pnas.org/content/112/28/8567.full#ref-8, suggests that urbanization  is associated with increased levels of mental illness, including depression. It has been suggested that decreased nature experience may help to explain the link between urbanization and mental illness. The study found that accessible natural areas within urban contexts may be a critical resource for mental health in our rapidly urbanizing world.

In a similar paper it suggests that people seek out natural places, parks and gardens appear to intuitively understand the personal health and well-being benefits arising from ‘contact with nature’. The study concluded that ‘contact with nature’ may provide an effective population-wide strategy in prevention of mental ill health, with potential application for sub-populations, communities and individuals at higher risk of ill health. http://heapro.oxfordjournals.org/content/21/1/45.abstract?ijkey=3d3329cefc73e17757510bfdd9df7888d28f35e6&keytype2=tf_ipsecsha

Furthermore in a paper titled Would You Be Happier Living in a Greener Urban Area? Researchers suggest that Urbanization is a potential threat to mental health and well-being. The study found that on average, individuals have both lower mental distress and higher well-being when living in urban areas with more green space. Although effects at the individual level were small, the potential cumulative benefit at the community level highlights the importance of policies to protect and promote urban green spaces for well-being. http://pss.sagepub.com/content/24/6/920.abstract?ijkey=f9c2d46870bbd39113ce041533f7284d50f5ab43&keytype2=tf_ipsecsha

So there we have it, scientific evidence that being in nature and living closer to green spaces can help improve mental health and with such a strong correlation, researches are suggesting interactions with nature should be implemented as a public health policy to reduce instances of mental health.

So what are we as a society doing about it? What are we doing to help reduce this pain so many of our brothers and sisters are experiencing?

It is abundantly clear that being in nature, ‘connecting to nature’ can be used to help our society to reduce mental health, feel better about ourselves and form these connections that brings us closer to who we really are to where we really came from…

IMG_0352[1]

 

 

 

 

Being in nature

 

 

Walking in the bush when this storm came over. The air changes, the wind stopped and the birds went silent. I had to run in excitement and anticipation of my escape from the downpour. The energy was rushing through my body, nature at work forcing its connection on me, reminding me that I am a part of her as the rain ran down my back. My heart raced, my energy grew as I ran along the uneven track, the rain started in big heavy drops, and the frogs began to chirp and the air began to buzz.

I could feel the plants, the earth, the animals I pass, start to come alive as the storm grew and followed my path.

The storm grew and it grew and the clouds grew dark, reaching and grasping to make its mark. Appearing to touch the trees on top of the ridge, gathering power from the heat of the day, to nourish the earth in all its melee.

_____________________

The wisdom of the trees

IMG_0632

Sitting beneath this sentinel the age and distortions of this tree are older than the entire human (white) habitation of this entire town.

Many, many years ago a seed the size of a speck of pepper fell in this spot and what followed, endured the harshness of the environment, the test of time, the abrasive effects of time, through fire, wind and rain.

Consider the epic tale this tree could tell, the fragility of a seedling, only by the fluke of nature surviving the attention of grazing animals, the droughts, the heat, the competition for survival in a nutrient exhausted ancient landscape.

Some of these trees still bare the scare of co-habitation with the indigenous people of this land. Used for their resources to make shields, tools and canoes and  as markers to identify places of spiritual significance.

The Awabakal People.

Perhaps, if people, communities, governments valued the ancient sentinels, acknowledge the wisdom within,  and appreciate their epic journey, perhaps our connection to the trees will grow.

 

_____________________

 

IMG_0463

Look at these beautiful children. These kids are from the Ashraya orphanage in Bangalore, India.

If your have never felt connected to the world we live in, take some time and visit these gorgeous kids.

As soon as I entered the school these kids were grinning from ear to ear fantastically happy to see me and my travelling companions.

It was an instant connection overlooked by my inability to talk their language and there’s to talk mine.

It is this connection I want to explore further with this blog, connection to nature and how it heals us, and connection to other people who live of this planet and have their own connection to nature.

Sitting in nature

Alan Watts, a philosopher of eastern philosophy made this following quote,

 You didn’t come into this world. You came out of it, like a wave from the ocean. You are not a stranger here.

He argues against the well held notion most of us have that, you and me, as ourselves going on with our lives day in and day out, are not a singular unit, we don’t exist as a body, a person separate to everything and everyone. What he is asking us to realise is that we are not singular but a part of our the totality of our external environment.

When we tuck ourselves into bed at night and drift off to sleep we are not a body lying under bed clothes on a mattress rather, we are lying in an entire world which we are intimately connected to. We are connected to the atmosphere through the air we breath, we are connected to the sun through the heat it provides, connected to the moon as it influences our sub-conscious and influenced by the rain on our rooftops or the snow on the fields or the other people in the house supporting our rest or disturbing it.

Just sitting here writing this blog I can hear the crickets outside my window in the black of night and the children in the lounge room cheering the footy. Both influencing me in different ways.

It is just as Mr Watts says, we are connected to this earth because we came out of it. Everything needed to make us was already here, we are part of this earth, belonging to this earth, natives of this earth. This is why we feel comfort, peace and acceptance when we sit in nature and let the earth go on around us.

To test this connection I went and sat in nature for an hour, sat in silence, by myself, no phone, no distraction.

Walking into nature I notice the sounds of suburbia, the lawn mowers, cars coming and going and the sounds of people, fading away. Each step along the track takes me closer towards nature, the birds calling becoming louder and more frequent almost inviting me back, back into the bush in the company of the trees.
IMG_0351[1]This is by no means an untouched forest, pristine, full of the magnificence seen in glossy magazines. Rather is is neighborhood forest, touched by mining many years ago, too frequent fire and serving as a source of recreation for the local kids on their motorbikes, cross country runners, walkers with dogs who run through the bush after being released from their confinement of a backyard.

The parallels this bush has with our human condition is striking. The nature I’m sitting in, listening to, is unspolited, untainted, it has suffered trauma, been cut down, vandalised and violated. Despite all this suffering it still continues to thrive. Birds call to one and other as the morning sun begins to offer its energy, tree tops sway almost silently gently in the breeze, hidden lives go on around me betrayed only by a slight movement in the undergrowth a rustle of grass. This forest has learnt to adapt, has the strength to keep persisting as it continues to receive and recover from the traumatic events it experiences, nature is a survivor.

Its the silence between the sounds that offers the peace, the stillness. If I close my eyes I feel the presence of the trees, the array of shapes and colors, the solitude. A solitude full of meaning full of sense of familiarity and acceptance, a belonging a soothing of the soul when we allow ourselves to become open, patient and loving.

IMG_0355[1]

Its being here that helps me forget about the things that are troubling me there’s a sense of time being forgotten as the oneness of the trees, the leaves, the birds and the unseen pay no attention to time. There are no clocks, no schedules as the cycles of the days go on perfectly despite the time driven suburbia only a few hundred meters away.

There’s no option other than to be soothed in this place. plants, the variety of sounds and the oneness of it all, calming to the human spirit. As Mr Watts so eloquently puts it, we didn’t come into this world, we have always been a part of it, part of this mixture of shapes, colours and textures, we are indeed no strangers to it.

Being part of nature and knowing its permanency, being aware of the majesty of all of nature is what breathes the connection we all have to the earth and the energy it offers only if we take the time to offer a little of our energy back.

This is why we all need to connect with nature to reconnect with nature because it is who we are and we are what it is.