“Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better.” — Albert Einstein
Many leaders are struggling to feel centered during COVID-19. In coaching and forum sessions, I encourage my clients to invest in vital self-care by reflecting daily in a natural setting. Scientific research consistently confirms that we seek out nature not only for our physical survival, but also for our social and personal well-being. It’s a pathway to human health and happiness and an invaluable resource for stressed, pressured leaders.
As leaders, our focus is almost solely on attending to the needs of others with an eye on past, current and future realities and possibilities. To be successful, we need others; we all play an invaluable part in the productivity equation. Until we have done the necessary work to understand ourselves and to integrate any unhealed aspects that we have carried from our earliest years, we cannot impact positively with our whole, immensely powerful energy.
The wisdom of nature
Wherever I am, I try to find my way to nature. I also find my way in nature. I seek wise counsel from trusted mentors for my own development. I also sit with trees, burrow in the sand, float on water, gaze at setting and rising suns and moons and stars, and rest on rocks. I find a place to be still because whatever matters is stirring in me and whatever is not settled will find its way to the surface. The feelings need to be fully and freely felt in my body before I can understand what I need to do. It is not an instant fix, and I am not the fixer. I know to be patient, receive and see what emerges.
Leadership requires making balanced judgements often in muddy, fast-moving situations. Every single one of my clients complains that they do not get enough strategic thinking time. I rephrase the lament with them into a more truthful statement: “In spite of all the known benefits, I regularly omit to take the time to do what I am paid to do — think.”
Each day, I journal, and the dots in all my puzzles gradually, and sometimes instantly, join. The continual benefit is that I become clear, lighter and ready to act, or not.
Boost your leadership
- Take 15 minutes every day to sit and observe nature. (In extreme conditions you can do it through a window).
- Breathe slowly and deeply and stay present to what you are observing.
- Be self-curious — notice what feelings and memories emerge.
- Capture any insights in the next 24 hours in a journal.
- Commit to important action.
In the spirit of sharing, I speak from my own long-term, life experience in a personal meditation example:
I am lost in the moment. Perfectly free, as the salty wind blasts my face until I bow, doubled over in submission to its force. I stretch out my arms and spin, faster and faster. Laughing, gleeful, I push into the wind and slowly gain ground as I run home in knee-high grass. My body feels weightless even though it is filled with intense, overwhelming private joy. I am 10 years old.
Silver light from the full moon casts a path across the still sea to the shore. The sky is ink black and the shimmering light transfixes me. Creeping out of the house, like a fugitive I lean against the cool, foreshore rocks. I stare at the moon, drag on my cigarette and wish I could walk across the gleaming path and disappear into this different space. I shiver, in awe of this simple, soul-filling beauty. I am 16 years old.
I am now living in nature. The coronavirus is out there, but the forest is unfazed. Instead, I witness a glorious detachment from my troubles. The sun and moon rise and set, pinecones drop, birds trill, lambs are born, and the stars have never looked so bright.
Every day I find a different place on this ancient, volcanic, resilient land to settle and sit. I am in silence for 15 minutes observing equally the fine detail of a leaf and the panorama of the forest. I breathe slowly and deeply. I empty my mind and open my heart. And always the tears come. Just a few. They drip slowly down my cheek. I don’t know their precise source, but they feel almost as old as me. I let them be. The sadness is deep and familiar, not yet understood. It lurks below the surface.
After many days, something knits inside me. The tears stop. I feel lighter and stronger. I continue to sit in nature every day and sadness no longer visits. Instead, joy and awe. 2020. I feel timeless and resilient.
Nature is our 24/7, no-cost soul guide. Being quiet with her helps us access our hidden head and heart data and not just our top-of-head thoughts. We can more fully understand what matters, inform our decisions and confidently act. When a leader chooses to regularly examine their strategy by reflecting in nature, the payoff is comforting clarity and refreshed energy.