“Nature does not hurry, yet everything is accomplished.” ~Lao Tzu
Five years ago, I was feeling really stressed (like millions of other people in the world). I was working full time in a job that was draining me of every single ounce of energy I had.
I had nothing left to give to myself or those I loved at the end of each working day; life had turned into an incessant cycle of getting up, going to work, coming home, working, and going to bed.
During this time, I read about so many people who were also unhappy with their lives. People who had reflected upon their existence and realized that this was not harmonious with who they were.
I read about these people who inspired me with awe yet at the same time felt a sense of desperation. That could never, would never, be me, I thought. And while these conflicting thoughts existed, I became increasingly stressed out and more and more unhappy.
There were things I enjoyed about my job (and still do). I became a teacher because I felt fortunate in having had such amazing support throughout my own education and wanted to offer young people that same help and guidance in return.
But at the same time, I was changing as a person and I wasn’t the same being I had been six years previously when I had chosen that path. For my own sanity, health, happiness, and the happiness of those I loved, I knew something had to change.
And then it did. My partner and I decided to move to a rural area of Herefordshire and buy a hundred-year-old cottage.
There is no quick fix for happiness and I realized that the most important way to become less stressed was to change my way of thinking. But living in the countryside has undoubtedly contributed to my increased levels of calm.
There is nothing like walking down a tranquil country lane, whatever the season, and just observing the sounds, smells, and landscape.
I walk the same route regularly but this never bores me. With every single day, let alone season, something has changed and yet there is also a sense of constancy in nature, which I find incredibly comforting.
The Lao Tzu quote about nature not hurrying embodies something I find I’m continually trying to work on—slowing down my daily pace. All too often we rush through our days, anxious to get things done at the fastest speed.
When I’m aware that this is happening, I make myself stop and think: Why am I doing this?
The pace of our world is frantic and seems to be constantly increasing. Despite this, I support the belief that life is not a race.
Going faster doesn’t necessarily equate with accomplishing more or better. In actual fact, the opposite is usually true. If you slow down, you make fewer mistakes, are able to think more clearly, and act with purpose.
For me, this also results in feeling calmer and being more aware of my surroundings and those around me. This can only be a good thing.
Frequently, we might tell ourselves that we must do such and such but in most cases, this feeling of having to do something is only a result of pressure from within.
I personally believe that it’s important for our own sanity and health to slow down (and I apply this to driving, walking, and breathing on a regular basis).
So this quote got me thinking about what we can learn from nature…
Nature is pretty hard to stop. Weeds and grass grow with dogged determination (much to the frustration of the lazy or time-pressed gardener). Many baby birds and other young offspring grow up against a huge number of odds; they are determined to survive.
With determination, it doesn’t matter how fast (or slowly) you move through life. If you are determined, if you have a goal and a plan to reach that goal, you’re already a long way toward it.
2. Strength in adversity
Have you ever pruned or cut back a plant only to wonder whether you ever actually did, because now the greenery has exploded into an amazing array? I used to be reluctant to cut any plants back until someone told me that they actually ‘like’ it.
I suppose it’s nature’s fight for survival; you cut it so it puts even greater energy into growing more.
Nature could decide to give in and plants could just shrivel up and die. But they don’t. In life, when things seem tough, we usually have two choices: give in or give more.
Choose to mirror nature and decide to face problems rather than run from them.
Nature can be incredibly adaptable. Just think about the four seasons. Animals and plants alike adjust to cope with the changes in climate and meteorological factors.
Humans are no different. We put on an extra sweater or two in the winter but can be less adept at managing with changing circumstances. Since change is one of the only certain things in life, try to accept this and see it as a positive thing as far as possible.
You might not be able to control life events, but what you can control is how you respond to them.
4. Storing inner strength
When autumn arrives, nature seemingly goes into shut down. But actually, wonderful things are going on, ready for when the plant and animal kingdom come into full swing once more.
Take a leaf out of nature’s book and nurture inner strength when times seem sunny so that when the clouds appear, you don’t give in.
One thing nature does really well is working together. Bees and flowers are just one of the many examples of this. Bees collect nectar from flowers to make their honey while the flowers get a good deal out of it by their pollen being spread by their furry winged companions.
You might be a real people person or perhaps you prefer your own space. Either way, the world is one huge partnership of human beings.
There are so many things that we simply could not do without the help of others. Look around you; everything you see has been thought of by a human, designed by a human, made by a human (okay, perhaps with the help of a machine, but still). I find that thought pretty amazing.
I’ll never meet most of the people who somehow are connected to my life, but knowing that every single thing I do I am able to do because of someone else is pretty awe-inspiring. In so far as you can, see people as teammates rather than competitors or adversaries.
With the exception of an extreme weather occurrence, nature is pretty darn consistent. Want to be a super fit runner? Jogging every three months isn’t going to get you there; try to stick to a once weekly routine.
It doesn’t matter if the day or time has to change as long as you hit that road/treadmill/country lane once a week. Maybe you want your garden to look pristine and something to be proud of. Again, get out there regularly rather than spend five hours slogging away once a month.
Whatever your thing, be consistent.
Whether you live in a rural area, town, or city, nature is all around us. Harness the power of nature to live your life and slowly accomplish your dreams.
Photo by Moyan Brenn