I have been noticing this year just how “plugged in” I am all the time. It takes me five minutes to walk from my apartment to Harvard Divinity School. Too often I have spent that walk with my head gazing at my phone, reading emails, answering texts, or creating to-do lists. Yet, through my research on spirituality, I know how important it is both to be present and to feel a connection with nature, so recently I have started to look around!
I look at the beautiful old brick homes lining the street, and then look past the manmade to the natural. I notice the tree roots that buckle the brick sidewalks and the grass poking through. When it’s sunny I notice the blue sky; rainy, the reflective puddles. This winter, I noticed the way the fresh snow lined the barren tree branches, and now that it is spring, I am noticing the flowers!
I don’t know about where you live, but where I am located in Cambridge, Massachusetts, the spring flowers are in full bloom and it is spectacular! There is a magnolia outside Harvard Divinity School’s Andover Hall that is just gorgeous—and it smells lovely, too! That’s right, I literally stopped and smelled the flowers There is something so pleasant about taking a moment to admire flowers with multiple senses, to immerse oneself in a singular sight and smell while allowing the rest of the world to fade away.
As I mentioned in my definition post, I define spirituality as a feeling of Connectedness to something greater, and one way to cultivate that Connectedness is through a relationship with nature. By doing something like stopping to smell the flowers, your awareness immediately centers on the present and allows you to feel the sense of Connectedness that is so important to spirituality. In addition, there is growing evidence that nature is associated with a decrease of negative emotions, like stress, anxiety, and anger, and an increase in positivity and well-being![i]
Therefore, I ask, when was the last time you stopped to smell the flowers? If it hasn’t been recently (and by recently I mean in the last few hours 😉 ) then I challenge you to get out there and inhale! It’s the perfect time of year, and what better way to cultivate awareness and experience the present moment than by focusing your attention on a beautiful flower? (Disclaimer: If you have bad allergies, ignore this challenge—I have no intention of making your life miserable!)