Have you heard that the air has been cleaner as a result of the COVID-19 shutdowns? Many of our parks and beaches are getting a break from human activity. As jarring as it is not to be doing ‘business as usual’, we can find hope in the fact that the air, land, and sea seem cleaner and more beautiful.
Many experts have remarked that our stay-at-home self-quarantine is benefitting the Earth. Dr. Meghan Thurlow, Vice President of Sensing Systems and Applied Science at the pollution- measuring company Aclima, calls it “an unprecedented natural experiment.”
Depending on the stay-at-home rules in your area, you may or may not be able to visit the natural environment around you. Most of us would probably prefer to spend time in beautiful natural environments rather than stuck inside for days. We can more easily feel our true nature when we are IN Nature. But the truth is, whether or not we can physically be in Nature, we ARE Nature. With practice, we can intentionally connect with the Nature inside us no matter where we are.
Inspired by a pristine old-growth forest in New Zealand, Ilchi Lee, the founder of Body & Brain Yoga, said this about our desire to connect with Nature:
“To recover your health, you need clean lungs. A clean brain, making your mind clear. A clean heart, purifying your heart by way of the forest….By coming into this forest, you can feel that you are Nature.”
- NATURE MEDITATION in the New Zealand Forest
Oneness with Nature is a central tenet of many traditional philosophies and health practices.
These traditions remind us that, no matter how developed our world becomes, people still live within Nature. COVID-19 is also reminding us of this fact.
Up until recently, however, it might have seemed as though the Earth was a warehouse from which to supply ourselves, rather than a living system in which we are a part. As Dr. Emmanuel Pastriech, PhD, says,” People have looked on Nature only as an object that must be developed.” [Earth Management (2016), Best Life]
You’re probably familiar with the ancient symbol that many people might know as “yin-yang” (Chinese; “yang-um” in Korean). It signifies the balance of energy in Nature, including in human beings. This symbol is actually named “Tai Chi”.
In East Asian health traditions, a balance of energy is seen as essential to life. An imbalance in this natural energy is said to be the cause of many common problems.
Traditionally, the different energies of the four seasons, times of the day, foods, and colors can affect our bodies’ natural systems, including the immune system. In a classical textbook of East Asian medicine, call Huangdi Neijing (The Yellow Emperor’s Classic of Medicine, c. 2600BCE), it says,
“Midday is like summer, when yang energy is at its fullest. The body’s energy is at its strongest and the disease’s energy is at its weakest. Evening is like fall, when yang energy is weakening and the disease’s energy is beginning to grow; thus, illness may gradually worsen. And night is like winter; our yang energy is dormant and the disease’s energy can flourish.”
Energy is said to have characteristics of relative lightness or heaviness, strength or weakness that can move and can be felt inside our bodies. According to these traditions, a healthy body has well-balanced energy that is in harmony with Nature’s five elements: water, fire, earth, wood and metal. [Korean Medicine (2013), Korean Essentials Series No.14, Korea Foundation]
When you take a Body & Brain class, you may recognize the influence of this holistic health philosophy in the principle known as “water-up, fire-down.” Water-up, fire-down refers to a healthy human balance of cool energy in the and warm energy in the abdomen. This principle can be observed in the natural world when fire energy from the sun heats the Earth, causing water to evaporate into the sky.
The idea that ‘fire’ energy might play a part in human health may seem archaic, but there is growing scientific evidence that core body warmth influences the functions of the immune system.
There is also evidence that the “fire” response to sickness, i.e. fever, is a natural process for fighting bacterial and viral invasion.
Body & Brain classes are designed to help you get in touch with your own natural energy. Typically, classes begin with exercises to help you warm up your body and circulate energy.
For home practice that you can share with anyone you know, try these free “quick class” videos at Body & Brain TV:
• Intestine Exercise – bring heat to your abdomen and activate core energy.
• Body Tapping – awaken and circulate your natural energy.
• Chest Breathing – expand your lungs, circulate oxygen and feel refreshed.
• Abdominal (DahnJon) Breathing – accumulate energy and warm the abdomen with slow, deep breathing.
After activating and circulating energy, you’re ready to begin experiencing the calming effects of focused body awareness.
In Body & Brain classes, we practice a combination of dynamic meditation exercises. These can be done sitting or standing:
• Jigam Meditation – seated meditation, focusing on the sensation of energy between the hands.
• TaiChi-Qigong – good for those who can feel energy during jigam meditation and want to develop their focus power.
The more you can feel and appreciate the life energy inside you, the easier it will be to sense the energy of Nature. By appreciating and feeling the life energy of Nature, you may see the Earth in a different way.
In the book Earth Management, authors Lee and Pastriech propose that traditional East Asian principles of harmony between people and Nature can help us to become responsible “Earth managers.”
“The heart of Earth Management is for each of us to have a sense of responsibility and a consciousness of ownership concerning the Earth,” Lee says. “The Earth must come into each of our hearts. We all have to be connected with the Earth – through feelings, not thoughts…. Earth Management is about people with a sense of ownership of the planet having infinite affection and love for the Earth, for all life on the Earth. It’s about caring for and managing the Earth together, just as we care for our own bodies and homes. It’s important for each of us to feel, ‘I am an Earth Manager.’”
As part of the Get Bright Campaign, Body & Brain TV recently hosted 2 Live events for Earth Day (April 22nd). Watch the video replays and enjoy the music, dancing, good news, qigong, and of course, meditation!
• “TaiChi & Qigong Basics: DahnMuDo” (4 episodes to date), BodynBrain TV
• “Prayer of Peace for the 21st Century,” IlChi Lee, Brain Education TV
• “Visual Meditation in New Zealand,” Brain Education TV
• “Meditation for Unwinding,” Brain Education TV
• “Guided Walking Nature Meditation at Maunawili Falls in Hawaii”
• “Nature Walk in the New Zealand Forest: Why We Need Nature,” Brain Education TV