Connecting with Nature and tapping into your senses can help alleviate those periods in your life when you experience intense physical, emotional and mental pain when traditional and alternative approaches just aren’t touching it? 

Life can offer up a myriad of challenges which may lead us to search for pain relief or cure and during this time our eyes and mind may be opened to the healing power of nature.

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Having recently observed the entire nature sensory experience as a form of self-exploration and therapy, it has great potential to go to a broader level of understanding through wider exploration and discussion. It is hoped that this article will open up pathways for others to experience a heightened awareness of the senses and be able to observe the mind and body’s responses when connecting with nature and tapping into your senses.

Recently my challenge has been struggling to find a suitable pain management regime, traditional or otherwise for debilitating Rheumatoid Arthritis. Discovering that nature sensory connections assisted pain management was a revelation.

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Let’s begin by saying on a personal level visualizing pain as a white pulsing orb, calling her Sarah, helps no end. Pain can move around the body on a daily basis so each morning, saying “morning Sarah, where are you today?” helps build a connection and relationship with the pain, and perhaps on some level, takes ownership of it. Before long Sarah presents herself and the relationship begins for the day.

The pulses of said orb are the pain experienced. Have been trying to think past the pain for a while by extending the gaps between those pain pulses. It’s an important realisation that containing the pulses and keeping them in can build a head of pressure providing a source of tension itself. Leaving the pulses to do their thing takes acceptance from us but to focus effort on extending the gap between the pulses absorbs our attention and distracts the mind away from the pain source.

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This approach is about mind distraction. Some say its head in the sand stuff.  Whatever you call it, easing the pain is worthwhile.

Meditation and self-hypnosis can turn down pain in the mind. When I discovered nature sensory engagement, then self-mastery over pain by filling the spaces spoken about with nature seemed obvious. What is happening is the mind is being distracted away from the pain. It’s not always plain sailing so that sometimes it works sometimes it doesn’t.

Skills used as a wildlife watcher for many decades were put to work in new ways to manage the pain.

Beginning with our five main senses of sight, sound, touch, taste and smell in turn to engage with nature.

A transferable skill here from my birdwatching was the ability to find a tiny bird in a vast landscape. It maybe subconscious but many wildlife watchers develop the art of peripheral vision. To find a bird you rest your eyes on the general area the bird is in and steadily bring in peripheral vision. If the bird moves, you see it out of the corner of your eye. If you look too intently, you filter out everything and just see that focused area.

It takes time for the mind to process extra information generated from peripheral vision. Slowing down, allowing yourself time to process this new information is the interesting part.

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Many of you may not be into birdwatching but try resting your eyes on whatever is in front of you wherever you are. Rest your mind too. Notice how many colour shades start to appear compared to the limited pallet presented by staring too much.

We all look but how much do we really see? There’s 40,000 shades of green so see how many more of them you can see using peripheral vision.

This can be done with the four other senses: taste, touch, smell, sound. Bring into being the wider peripheral experience of each. Do we consume or do we taste? Do we sniff or do we smell? Do we hold or do we feel? Do we listen or do we hear? Push your senses and notice how other things filter out – that’s how I filter out pain.

I’ll leave you to explore smell, taste and touch but let’s focus on hearing for a moment.

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Notice in a jungle soundscape how all creatures inhabit a differing frequency some overlapping but all audible. Human beings talk over one another so our messages can be lost in the hubbub.

Rest your ears on the soundscape around you. Listening to less, try to notice how you hear more. If there’s an annoying sound such as a road, airplane or loud conversation, try filtering it out.

Listening to wider soundscape helps. The various frequencies involved and how the sound merge and overlap, ebb and flow. Notice that the cacophony is made up of differing sounds. We could conduct soundscapes like an orchestra if we break them down into component parts. You’ll soon filter out the annoyance.

It’ll still be there doing its thing but it’s a part of the orchestra, the bigger picture. Equate that annoyance to how I see pain – something that we let do its thing but filter out.

Maybe try drawing what the differing sounds look like in soundwave form. This is a way of learning bird songs as you tune into how the bird sings, its pitch, tone and whether it has short pauses. Maybe draw or write down your emotional response to that soundscape. Use whatever you have and whatever Mother Nature presents you with.

By engaging with nature and the environment around you in this heightened sensory state, gives new perspectives and experiences of our situations.

What I do is try to fill those gaps between the pulses of pain with nature and my sensory connection to it.

Maybe adapt my theory.  If nothing else, use this idea to get even more pleasure from your environment and nature by beginning to sense things you have walked past daily and taken for granted.

Stuart Mabbutt

Nature Sensory Workshop Facilitator

For dates of forthcoming workshops on nature as well as pain/stress management and to find out more about what he does, please visit www.wildmaninspires.co.uk