This Monday, I overheard a woman ask:
“How do I be natural?”
As two women jogged by me on a bridge, one paused and asked for a photo. The other took the phone and prepared to capture the moment. But, before clicking, she noticed her friend start to fumble. “Don’t pose!” she exclaimed. “Just be natural.” Her friend turned left, right, flipped her hair and fussed with her clothes. “I don’t know how to be natural!”
I don’t know that they ever caught the desired shot, but that question stayed with me.
How to be natural?
what does “natural” even mean?
A challenging question to be sure, right? And maybe that’s because we must separate normal from natural. Think about it. When running ourselves ragged for accomplishment is the norm, how do we know? Working long days endlessly becomes a badge of honor rather than a warning signal. So we shoot up with caffeine and/or medication and dive into the frenzy. That is normal. But is it natural?
Of course, we also spend most of our days indoors, away from the rhythms of nature. Shoes separate us from the touch of grass and ground. And if you live in the United States, you know we have tons of fake food. We consume so much of it that our bodies have no idea what “natural” is. But fake certainly is normal. There is also the issue of being natural with others. How often do we hide our true thoughts and feelings? Or perhaps we adopt certain ways of being to gain acceptance, security and love. We silence and change ourselves into whatever in order to survive socially. Because, well, that’s normal even though it is not natural.
So, how in the world could we possibly know what is natural anymore? I don’t know that there is an easy answer. But clothes free living and other simple life practices presence me and help me discover “natural” again.
presence through barefooting
I recently saw an image of a family picnicking in their backyard. They sat on a towel with shoes on. And I thought, why… why would anyone wear shoes on a towel in their backyard? Of course, I then remembered how, once upon a time, I wore shoes in the house. I would even sit on the couch and plop my sneaker-bound feet on the cushions. That’s just the way it was, because that was normal albeit unnatural.
Barefooting came about 2 years ago. At first it felt weird to put the skin of my feet directly in touch with the ground. But the more I did it, the more my feet breathed alive. Simple barefooting presenced me to my feet and reminded me to use them actively. Suddenly, blades of grass between my toes became the new normal. And touching the earth not only felt normal, but also natural.
Connection feels natural now.
presence through clothes free camping
Clothes free camping is the most powerful reset tool for me. Spending extended hours breathing fresh air and connecting directly with nature rewires my body. My internal systems regulate. And I spend more time pausing, listening, being. Even cooking over the camp stove inspires me to eat more healthily. Clothes free camping shows me what it means to be part of the world rather than bulldozing through it.
Of course, I can’t always roll about clothes free outside for days on end. So, sometimes I find place to read clothes free for a few hours outdoors. And even when I can’t walk about naked, just being outdoors at all is powerful. For instance, this winter I committed to regular fresh air walks. Not only did this help me stay active, it also refreshed and balanced me. Seeing buds on trees or birds hopping in grass broadened my perspective. Suddenly, life wasn’t just about work anymore. Life was, well, about living… living in rhythm. Connecting. Being.
other simple presence practices
Many other practices help me reconnect with what it means to be natural. Writing in my food journal presences me to how I feel when I consume food and drink. So, rather than eat mindlessly and wonder why I feel like crap, I observe. I listen. And even learning to eat in rhythm with nature is a new endeavor! The February Black Girl In Om Twitter chat spoke to this. The guest mentioned finding and eating foods in season in our areas. One tool for people in the United States is SustainableTable.Org. Perhaps simply changing from dense winter foods to light spring foods is enough of a reconnecting leap for now.
Of course there is meditation, which shows me what’s going on underneath the surface. I also love cleaning, cooking fresh food and exercising as practices of presence and connection. Or maybe it’s just answering the question “How are you?” honestly for once. So many simple practices can bring us back to what it means to be natural. You might discover some great ones for you.
And even if we don’t have answers, simply being in the question presences and reconnects us.