What can we learn from steeping ourselves in wilderness?
Stepping off a flight into a wall of hot, humid tropical air is possibly my favorite feeling.
My Indian blood craves the tropics. I never got enough tropical air as a kid born in Buffalo and raised in the desert climates of Arizona and California.
Luckily, my work takes me to places like Uganda and Peru, where I’ve spent time trekking around the jungle and the bush and soaking in the forest.
It’s in these places, remote and wild and far from any signs of human habitation, that I find my best ideas and an overwhelming sense of peace.
Peace comes from a tenet shared by many of the world’s great religions: that ultimately, it’s not all about me. Or the petty concerns of my day-to-day life. Peace comes from the idea that I am just a tiny cell in the larger organism of the universe. That my separateness is an illusion, the result of a brain too tiny to comprehend infinity.
This is the ultimate lesson of the wild: the “self” is just a handy unit of organization – it doesn’t have any real meaning.
Being swallowed up in the sounds and smells of the jungle, I forget about the emails that remain unanswered (2,400 at last count – not kidding), the business cards I have yet to scan, and all the other to-dos that cloud my consciousness.
I just sojourned in Guyana, trekking around Kaieteur Falls, at the far corner of the Amazon and on the ring of the Guiana Shield, a 1.7 year old rock formation where virgin rainforest gives way to moon-surface looking stone plates.
Some weird creatures live here, like the Golden Frog, a tiny yellow species that lives and breeds exclusively in the giant bromeliads around the Falls.
Is there anything more delicious, more satisfying, than soaking up virgin rainforest?
The Japanese call this “forest bathing” and have invested in studies that show the neuroscientific benefits of immersing oneself in limitless green. I don’t need to read any more studies on this. My body knows. My mind knows.
I’m reading an incredible book, the Hidden Life of Trees, by Peter Wohlleben, about the ways plants communicate. Networks of trees in a forest send each other electrical signals and seem to have a language we are just beginning to understand.
The planet was green long before we came along. And it will remain green long afterwards. We may as well get with the program.
Leila Janah runs Samasource and LXMI and writes a weekly letter. Subscribe here.