Yearning for Open Spaces (August 2022)

When I think about what I missed most during lock-down a few things come to mind: going to the cinema, seeing live music or going to a restaurant with friends.  These things are great, and I love that I can do them again. However, they are all forms of entertainment and the good feelings they generate don’t tend to last much longer than the activity itself.

The thing that I really missed was getting out into the middle of a wood, on top of a wide-open hill or next too (and often in) water, whether it be the sea, a river or loch. It was that deep sense of well-being that comes from connecting with beautiful, wild, peaceful surroundings.

When I previously worked in a busy social work office, surrounded by noise, busyness and the  demands of the profession, I had a poem on my wall, The Peace of Wild Things by Wendell Berry. The final line is ‘for a time, I rest in the grace of the world, and I am free’.

I used to long for the day to end, for the weekend to come so that I could experience that sense of freedom and grace. And going through COVID was similar – there were a lot of restrictions on our ability to simply take off into the wild. Yes, we could still go out, but only if we complied with the (necessary) conditions in place about where we could go, how long we could go for and who we could be with. And all this was underpinned by fear of something we were finding out about as it evolved.

I was fortunate that I could still work throughout, with my coaching clients and the training we do being delivered online. But during those conversations with clients and also with family and friends, I began to notice a similar theme coming up time and again – and I gave it a name; ‘the yearning’ for open spaces.

We were spending so much time on our screens (and wasn’t it great that we have the technology to stay connected to each other in this way). But what was the cost of this distance, this sense of isolation? We all have our own experiences that we will look back on, shaping our stories of that time.

Research tells us about the positive impact on motivation, energy levels, moods, problem solving ability, creativity, gratitude and of course, stress reduction that being in nature provides. As one of the many people who took up open water swimming during lockdown, I can testify to that. The ‘freedom and grace’ Wendell Berry described was never felt more than when I was floating about in the (usually freezing) sea. And, on a couple of occasions, I was fortunate to participate in adventure days, run by a friend and colleague, deeply appreciating the serenity of sitting with my back against a gently swaying tree, contemplating life after an energetic cycle along the forest tracks.

I’ve come to recognise this yearning as a basic human need that, when met, brings so much alignment with purpose and priority, appreciating what’s really important in our lives. And this deep connection with nature brings one more significant benefit – it allows us to reconnect with ourselves, who we are beyond our emails, social media and zoom schedules. It reminds us that part of our human nature is to be in nature – and to be restored as a result.

Having benefited so much from my own experiences of reconnecting with the wild, I can see the significant value of relocating some of my coaching and mindfulness services from an office or a screen to a glade or a beach. And so, the seeds of an idea were planted. I want to explore how being in these natural spaces adds value to the coaching conversation and to the mindful experience.

If you too have had that yearning, why not come a walk with me and see where it takes us.

Follow this link to find out more about our Open Spaces project.



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