Yes, it’s the first full week in August and that means it’s also National Simplify Your Life week. Oftentimes, busy lives, full work schedules and long to-do lists, along with a multi-tude of technologies to help us get all these tasks organized and done, are a common theme for many. And while we may be up to great things and doing important service in the world, sometimes the complexities of life can feel burdensome, heavy and lead to stress and unhappiness. Simplifying our lives in a variety of ways can help bring back that natural element of levity, freedom, joy and exuberance that is always a part of our true inner nature. While there are many ways to simplify, one way to easily peal away from the hold of busy-ness and complexities and tap into our inner nature is to step outside.
Nature is one of our greatest assets. Across the ages, we have read, known of many great poets, writers, artists, teachers, inventors that have gone out into nature for inspiration, clarity, and renewal. There is a reason why sages from spiritual traditions around the globe all come from the mountains to share their teachings. John Muir, a beloved writer and father of our National Park system shares that “the clearest way into the Universe is through a forest wilderness.” He also says that “Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to pray in and play in, where nature may heal and give strength to body and soul.”
In Norway, the 2nd happiest country on the planet according to UN rankings (U.S. is ranked 17th), they have a particular “simple” philosophy that greatly enhances their happiness and wellbeing. That is “friluftsliv”…while it may be a mouthful, and is not so easily translated into English, it literally means “free air life”. It refers to an uplifting ambience that arises from our outdoor dynamic relationship and enchantment with nature. Some Norwegians say this word describes a way of life that is spent exploring and appreciating nature. Their country’s population is small and their wild lands and mountains are all surrounding. Nature and ‘friluftsliv’, time exploring and appreciating nature, is an integral part of people’s life in that country. It is a philosophy, a way of being that doesn’t require any technology or to-do lists, but instead is a willingness, a joyful curiosity and love of stepping outdoors to step into nature and into our inner nature. John Muir eloquently points to this when he says, “I only went out for a walk and finally concluded to stay out till sundown, for going out, I found, was really going in.”
So, from this year forward, let’s take the invitation of “National Simplify Your Life” week and step outdoors! This is one, easy, time-tested way to recover our natural joy and freeness and to remember and celebrate our integral connection to our greatest asset, Nature.
This article was inspired, in part, by the article, How ‘Friluftsliv’ Can Help You Reconnect with Nature.