Lowe's Home Improvement
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Slow Down and Appreciate Nature

Take a break from life's chaos to relax the mind, observe nature, and reflect on your purpose.

a bench is chained to an oak tree
a pine tree by a path

Here's a low-tech anti-theft device for the ages: A park bench chained to a tree. Being a philosopher, I came away with a different impression. To me, the bench and tree represent the notion of relaxing. Chilling out. The chain, on the other hand, is what's often needed for folks to sit still in the first place.

So many people are in a rush these days. I sometimes find myself doing that, too. Then I snap back to my senses and plant my feet solidly on the ground again. As the quote reads, "The time to relax is when you don't have time for it."

Here's another tree and bench combo with a message, this one from philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche: "The pine tree seems to listen, the fir tree to wait: and both without impatience," he wrote. "They give no thought to the little people beneath them, devoured by their impatience and their curiosity."

dying maples leaves in sunlight

Ironically, the same "impatience and curiosity" that have led humanity to many great accomplishments (think moon landing) have also caused us a lot of grief. We stress incessantly and don't know how to dial down the worry machine. And it's no wonder, with so many serious issues thrown our way 24/7.

Although I do watch the morning news, I much prefer to take my coffee on the patio. There, seated in an Adirondack chair and sheltered by maple, linden, and honey-locust trees, I can bask in the light of Nature's perfection. It is the best stress-reducer. That is, as long as I leave the iPhone in the house.

red bud emerging from maple in spring

When you take time to slow down and relax, you have the opportunity to do two soul-enriching things: observe and reflect.

Observation is really educational -- you notice the behavior of the chipmunks scurrying about or the song of the birds overhead. You also catch sight of tiny miracles, such as the first red buds of a maple unfolding in spring.

a tree shown at sunset

Reflection is more of a meditational exercise. You think of life and all of its possible meanings. And you pick one that works for you at the moment. It might not work for you Friday at 5 o'clock, but it makes some sort of cosmic sense in Monday morning's early dew.

So next chance you get, try calling a time out from life's distractions. Use that opportunity to center yourself. Relax. Observe. And above all, reflect. For in the words of Socrates, "The unexamined life is not worth living."

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