I want to discuss, very broadly and briefly, the role of perception and relationship in the way we experience life. This is because enhancing perception and human-nature relationships is the core of my NatureConnect approach for facilitating deeper states of consciousness. Practicing NatureConnect can transform your awareness and sense of self, ultimately have beneficial mental, physical and spiritual effects BUT its useful to understand the role of perception in helping you to connect more profoundly.
We’ve all heard of the saying, “Seeing is believing” or “I’ll believe it when I see it”. This assertion or belief, apart from being back to front, is like putting all the perceptual eggs into one basket for understanding the world. Seeing or sensing in general is just the physical process of reception and transfer of information or signals from your surrounds into your brain. Sensing is just the first step in becoming aware of your world, of perceiving the inner and outer worlds that constitute your awareness and consciousness.
Perception refers to the overall cognitive process of becoming aware of the external and internal world: sensing, recognising, identifying and interpreting meaning and relevance from electro-chemical signals based on your mental landscape such as knowledge, experience, culture, beliefs, values and other components. The processing of incoming signals occurs in various parts of the brain leading to a construction of a mental picture or awareness from which flows ideas, reactions and knowledge, and subsequent physiological and behavioural responses.
So sensing e.g seeing, hearing, touching provides the raw material for perception. For example, my brain may receive a fast approaching light signal when I am standing on a dark road but it is the act of perception that interprets this signal to be an approaching car and that I need to get off the road. Perception is a significant contributor to what ‘fills’ your mind, the contents of your consciousness. Simply put, you build a picture, a representation of the world within your mind through the act of perception.
Meaning, that is subjects and experiences you give personal significance to, arises through your perceptions. You for example may give greater meaning to seeing and smelling a yellow rose than others because it was your deceased mother’s favourite flower. Meaning-making is also significantly affected by the type and quality of your relationship with the perceived. Perception and relationship are critical to the recognition of meaning and that which we hold dear and valuable.
The NatureConnect programs are based around this idea of deepening meaning through mindful, heart based perceptual experience and intimate relationships with nature’s beings. The meanings you interpret through the clarity of depth perception and intimate relating enriches the experience of connecting and understanding about your life and nature. Simply, if you mindfully perceive and sow the seeds of appreciation, gratitude and love when engaging nature’s beings, you can experience the equanimity, the profound calmness and connectedness that arises from expanding into these spacious moments and relationships.
It has taken me most of my lifetime in recognising AND living this truth, at least as much as I can. As a child I sought natural spaces as a playground for imaginative possibilities. I was totally present, at peace and content. As an insecure and unhappy adult nature became a refuge from uncomfortable social realities such as social isolation, job insecurity and despair from becoming aware of environmental degradation. As a middle-aged man continuing to search for meaning and deeper connectedness, natural spaces are not just a refuge to escape but a sanctuary to surrender normal states of mind and being and an opportunity to simply BE and experience the Divine presence within Nature. It is the practice of mindful perception from the heart that always steers me towards the spacious calm of Nature. So please come along with me and practice these important skills!