Earth Day is right around the corner. It’s a great time to get outside and celebrate the flourishing of spring and the rebirth of the natural world. Spending time in nature can help us relax, let go of stress, and reconnect with a more natural, authentic way of being.
Remember what it was like to play outside as a young child? It was spontaneous, fun and wild. You probably didn’t think much about what you were doing, you just did it!
As an adult, you probably think a lot more about what you do. You think about what’s practical, what’s reasonable, what’s important—and what’s normal, appropriate and expected of you. That’s a very different experience!
Sometimes it’s useful to have that adult filter, but if we live that way all the time, it really shuts down our sense of wonder at life. If everything becomes serious and planned, there isn’t much room for joy.
The Zen teacher Shunryu Suzuki teaches the importance of developing what he calls a beginner’s mind. He says that, “in the beginner’s mind, there are many possibilities. In the expert’s mind, there are few.” He’s talking about the difference between how children see the world and most adults do: a blank canvas without limitations versus a strict set of rules to be followed in the hopes of achieving a decent outcome.
We can all develop a beginner’s mind. In truth, we all already have one. Getting in touch with it is just a matter of practicing letting go of our adult filter and opening ourselves to new experiences and new possibilities of how life can be.
Spending time playing, especially in nature, is a great way to do that. It’s easier to let go of our perceived social roles and stop being who we think we need to be when we’re outside the familiar grounds of the home or the office. Going for a hike or kayaking on the river or even just taking a long walk that breaks your regular routine can really change how you’re feeling, and interrupt the pattern of your everyday life in a positive way. If you like sports, playing a game of soccer or basketball is also a wonderful way of getting out of your head and into the intuitive flow of life.
We can learn a lot from kids and from our own younger selves. Their sense of joy and wonder doesn’t have to leave us as we grow older.
The more we can let go and just be in that flow, the more we can grow joy within us.