Written on March 08 2016:
Growing up, we moved around a lot. In my 20 years on this planet, I’ve moved 16 times! The shortest we were in one house was five months. But, there was also a period of four and a half years in one house. I was 8 when we got there and 12 when we left. They were good years. We were living in a house Amma had designed. The house was made of stabilised soil blocks, blocks made mostly using recycled construction material so the whole thing was a greyish brown colour. We hadn’t bothered painting it and we called it the chocolate house. Our layout only had 2 other houses in it when we got there. The small plot of land adjacent to us belonged to my aunt and was our farmland.
I have many memories of that place but, foremost are the many hours spent toiling in our garden under the sun or the equal number of hours spent simply lazing with the neighbour’s cat watching the breeze move the leaves this way and that. I didn’t realise then, that I was giving myself a healthy dose of Vitamin N. Something that could actually be hard to find or absorb later on.
It would be hard to find people who say we don’t need nature; that nature is bad. The general opinion is that nature relieves stress and is nice to be in. As long as it doesn’t get too dirty or scary. Is that all it is though? This nice thing that you indulge in every now and then… In small quantities… In comfortably distant ways…
It shouldn’t be. I’m going to start on something that made me decide to do what I do now. Sit comfy, take a deep breath and stick with me. I promise you are going to be thinking a little differently by the end of it.
Laying the groundwork.
Before we join the dots, there are three things we need to be sure we agree on.
One, would you agree with me when I say that as a species, human beings were evolved to be in the wild? It is only in the last few decades that we have lived a life mostly within four walls.
Two, every time we have a sensory input, our brain reacts in a certain way. It produces a signal and/or chemical and it is this series of reactions that keeps us healthy and well, us!
Three, there is absolutely no way that one can provide even a fragment of the number of sensory experiences one has in the wild, indoors. The ones that we do have are in excess!
Joining the dots yet? We need Nature to be who we truly are. This simple logic (and there is a lot of research to prove it) shows us we need to be outdoors. Or we are slipping into uncharted territories? Dare I take it further? Can we not say, that if there is trouble in our society, it is because as individuals, we are in pain? If we can solve that pain by having this right balance in our brains and bodies, or in other words, in connecting to Nature, can we solve societies’ pains?
I have dedicated my life to connecting children to nature and for that, I needed to be complete in my research. I needed to know what actually happened if we didn’t have this balance of sensory inputs. In doing that, I came across something called Sensory deprivation Therapy. This is used in small amounts to relieve stress, clear the mind, focus thought processes and provide spiritual experiences to people. They try to block inputs of certain sensory types for a small period of time using multiple mechanisms. But, everywhere I looked, there was a warning to be careful how long you did this. Quoting Wikipedia: extended or forced sensory deprivation can result in extreme anxiety, hallucinations, bizarre thoughts, and depression.
Now imagine voluntarily depriving ourselves of sensory experiences, every day of your life. Even worse, imagine training our children to do this to themselves.
Have you heard of Richard Louv? He is a journalist and a writer from the US, he is also co-founder and Chairman Emeritus of the Children & Nature Network, an organization helping build a movement to connect children to the natural world. He put together this book that inspired many people to get out. He coined a term for this troublesome phenomenon. He said we need to solve Nature Deficit Disorder.
In all my reading and researching and watching, it feels like India isn’t too bad with our nature connection situation. But, we are getting there! Let’s nip it in the bud? Let’s solve the dis-ease before it happens. Some Vitamin N will do the trick. We have started off a whole bunch of training programs and connective activities in Bangalore and are already in talks to spread to other cities very soon.
But, if you want our help starting off something in your area, in your neighbourhood, start small. Take our free online course. It is a three-step intro to connecting anyone to plants. and will work anywhere in the world.
Go here to know how you can be a part of this. See you sometime, under a tree, by the side of the river, or maybe just in spirit, in nature together.