I've always loved the challenge of paying attention to the living things that show up in my life, and trying to figure out their meaning, or what they are there to teach me. Some cultures use the term "spirit animal" for this, so this is the term I've adopted. Sometimes my spirit animal is a plant or other organism, so I also use the term "Nature Name." In the way that I use these terms, Nature Name holds a more temporary presence or lesson, whereas Spirit Animal is for longer, even for a lifetime. As I've settled into more Niksen time, and learned to move through my depression, my life has slowed down tremendously. So when I watched the film Christopher Robin with my son a couple of years ago, I was reconnected with the wonderful world of Winnie the Pooh. I remember in college reading the book "The Tao of Pooh," and so I associate his character with a Zen way of life. I've never adopted a fictional character as a Spirit Animal before, but after all, he is a bear!
As someone who has suffered from depression for over a decade, I have read SO many self-help books, and followed the wellness trends from many holistic sources. They all have one thing in common: they require me to DO something about my life. They tell me how I can improve my life in a myriad of ways. Some of them have been helpful, don't get me wrong, but if you're familiar with depression, not wanting to DO anything is quite common. Niksen, or the Dutch art of doing nothing, offers an alternative: doing nothing. I'm a pro at doing nothing! In fact, it's in my nature. Believe it or not, it's in our human nature as a species as well. We try to constantly improve our efficiency, so we can save our energy for things we enjoy. Even in our hunter and gatherer days as a species, we found time to rest and do nothing. And we did it outside in nature, which offers us so many insights and connections. If this practice of Niksen in nature sounds appealing, read on my friends.
Halfway through summer, I was already starting to stress about going back to school. I'm a K-5 P.E. teacher (which I actually call Health & Fitness), and was looking at two weeks of summer camp, then two weeks of teacher prep. So basically, I felt like my summer was already over, and it was only July. As a proactive measure, and to keep myself accountable to it, I started a 28 day challenge of sorts to get myself out in nature for some niksen time, and posted my progress to Instagram & Facebook.
Do you ever feel exhausted for no obvious reason? You're not sick, over-stressed or menstruating, but yet you feel exhausted? That happened to me again this week, and the first thing I looked at is the lunar cycle. Sure enough, there's a new moon this week.
A polar vortex hit Austin hard this winter, and I was holed up in my house, and in my mind, like a squirrel safe in its tree. My mind frittered away, furiously trying to determine what I needed to survive. No matter what life throws at me though, I look to nature for solace. Every. Single. Time. I force myself to go out and just observe and feel, and support always comes, even if I don’t get any answers. So this is what I did, in short, freezing bursts.
Teacher, mother, lover of lounging in nature. This blog documents my experience with Niksening in nature and applying this type of minimalism to all aspects of my life, in order to simplify and amplify the best parts of life.
Niksen Nature is also on Medium! If you're interested in having curated articles like these in your inbox each week, check it out here.