nature

Comfort overrated?

Manipulating the environment

We wish to keep ourselves safe. It is natural and normal to do so. Ego-driven logic tells us that we must be safe always, no matter what. Paradoxically, we create a pretty toxic environment while trying to achieve that goal. We build housing to protect ourselves from the elements, and in so doing, we risk the danger of eliminating nature in all its forms from our presence. The proliferation of McMansions in suburban neighborhoods is a case-in-point: A homeowner or developer buys a property, then builds the largest structure possible on it, eliminating any semblance of a useless "yard," maximizing the internal square footage. This is the way many modern humans choose to live, cut off from their neighbors, connected to the world only through electronics. The garages must be huge to house SUVs. The rooms must be huge to store a lifetime's accumulation of stuff.

Our bodies did not evolve to live this way. Our ancestors spent time in raw nature, and the body adapted amazingly. We still react pretty well to hard physical work. This used to be necessary when the majority of Americans lived on open land and farmed for survival. They ate fresh whole food when the seasons allowed and preserved the harvest for the leaner months, using simple canning and storage techniques. Factory farming and the proliferation of big agriculture has changed that. People's connection to nature has lessened, and we get our food from supermarkets. Progress? The state of the average Westerner's health would argue otherwise.

We now can control the temperature of our environment with the flick of a switch or the turn of a dial. Our vascular systems have become soft, unchallenged by exposure to nature. The heart works overtime to supply blood to our extremities, and the body is bombarded by stress chemistry. Cortisol, adrenaline, and norepinephrine take up permanent residence in our systems. Inflammation from environmental toxins and processed food attack the weakened veins and arteries. We die early.

How does meditation help? We settle down to our least excited state twice a day for twenty minutes. We get a short respite from stress chemistry and replace it with a sense of bliss, of connectedness. We may not be able to change everything in our environment to be more comfortable, but when we meditate we can regain a connection to our true nature, and nature will lead us to a more sustainable existence.

Modern day camping has become little more than staying in mobile housing with a slightly smaller TV than we have at home. Many eschew this version of "connecting to nature," and rightly so. What is the point?

Get a simple backpack and a tent. Technology has made great strides toward maintaining necessary comfort in a small affordable campsite. Or hit the trail and go backcountry. Simplify. We need to experience nature first hand with the limited time we have on this beautiful planet.

Camping, northern Arizona

Camping, northern Arizona