Nature as a Mirror of the Psyche
“By acknowledging such links between the inner, psychological world and the perceptual terrain that surrounds us, we begin to turn inside-out, loosening the psyche from its confinement within a strictly human sphere, freeing sentience to return to the sensible world that contains us. Intelligence is no longer ours alone but is a property of the earth; we are in it, of it, immersed in its depths.” (Abram, 1996, p. 262)
"Nature" is often thought of and treated as merely a backdrop, perhaps to a nice walk or a picnic, or simply as a landscape to be moved through on our way to somewhere else. Many of us understand the importance of the natural world from a life-sustaining perspective and try to do what we can to minimise our impact upon the Earth's systems. Another aspect of being out in nature, well known for centuries in Japan but only now gaining popularity in the West, is that it improves not only our physical but psychological wellbeing too. Read the latest research coming out of Yale University on "How Immersion in Nature Benefits Your Health".
However, there is another aspect of the natural world that many are unaware of, that nature can hold up a mirror to us and thereby teach us about ourselves.
By breaking with the routines of our daily lives and immersing ourselves in nature, we are exposed to and begin to attend to the manifestations and processes of the natural world. As our internal narrative subsides, the quiet voice of intuition can be heard, and insights into our own nature and predicaments can emerge.
Free from the distractions of designed objects, spaces, and bombardment of sensory experiences, a space seems to open up for the natural world to exhibit its richness. Myriad subtle qualities that often go unnoticed, drowned out against the immediate and alluring availability of the synthetic, come into our field of awareness. There is a temptation to see significance in the smallest of phenomena, which take on meanings that we may not normally ascribe to them, become metaphors, symbolic knowledge for us to interpret, to find the personal significance of.
It is easy to see how people who live(ed) permanently within the natural landscape might place great stock in the ability of nature to provide knowledge in the form of signs and omens.
“we need to project ourselves into the things around us. My self is not confined to my body. It extends into all the things I have made and all the things around me. .... Everything surrounding me is a part of me.”
Jung, 1950, pp. 202–203