Nature can be an immense source of wisdom only if we pay attention.
For millennia, poets, philosophers, and scientists have drawn inspiration and insight from the changing landscapes of the earth, and the diversity of creatures from the smallest insects, the highest mountains.
Whether you are in the big city or living in the countryside, here are 10 generous life lessons from nature for the keen observer.
1) We should learn to give without expecting anything in return
The Persian poet Hāfiz encapsulates this best in the quote, “Even after all this time the sun never says to the earth, ‘You owe me.’ Look at what happens with a love like that. It lights the whole sky.’’
When we give something to a friend, co-worker, family member, or partner with exacting expectations of what we want in return, it destroys the natural flow of the relationship.
This results in the relationship or situation feeling strained and draining, rather than energizing.
So next time you feel inclined to give or do in such a conditional manner, check in with yourself first: Is it something I can ask in a sincere manner? Or is there a way for me to give without feeling taken advantage of if I receive nothing in return?
If the answer is yes, go right ahead—GIVE! But if the answer is no, then simply set boundaries.
2) The tiniest shifts can cause outstanding changes
As many observers of nature— from hobbyist gardeners to scientists with decades of experience— can attest, the tiniest shifts can cause a massive shift in outcomes.
How does this apply in life?
Have you ever gone through a rough phase and felt called to change everything in your life— like resign from your job, break up with your partner, or even move to a different state expecting that things will change for the better… except the same things that had you running happened again?
Sometimes when we want to change our lives, we tend to overdo it. And so, instead of generating positive outcomes, we throw the baby out with the bath water.
Many experts advise a gentler approach than what Hollywood likes to romanticize in movies. As a plant’s health can improve immensely from moving a little bit left or right to receive the proper amount of sunlight, so can you.
Looking to improve your health and stress levels?
You may not need an expensive gym membership. A 10-minute relaxed walk with a friend or a 15-minute yoga stretch scattered around your workday can cause a gradual and gentle shift that cumulatively improves your life.
With more energy, you are more fun to be with and you enjoy life more.
3) Everyone has their own unique genius
“Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid” is a quote that is often attributed to Albert Einstein that more accurately comes from a popular fable.
It explains the absurdity of measuring people based on the same set of measures then judging one as better or smarter than the other.
Nature teaches us that rather than holding everyone to the same set of standards, it is more fruitful to observe and appreciate each person’s unique genius.
We are reminded to be mindful of seeing and appreciating the boundless diversity of gifts of nature around us, and to carry the same sense in the people we interact with.
But this isn’t just about our potential, actually. We’re also conditioned to love a certain way, to think a certain way, to act a certain way.
To get out of the boxes society has designed for us, we have to free ourselves…and it starts by freeing our mind.
If you want to create the life you truly want for yourself, I strongly suggest Rudá Iandé’s “Free Your Mind” Masterclass. It will help you chart your own path forward in life.
4) Everything is transient
Whether it’s a terrible storm or the brilliance of trees in bloom, it simply cannot last forever.
“This too shall pass“ can be a source of comfort when times are especially challenging and seemingly insurmountable, if we are strong and patient enough to withstand it.
For the beautiful and inspiring moments nature gifts us, the wisdom of appreciating the good in life without clinging onto it is beautiful practice.
When fruits are in season, we can cherish the flavors better, knowing it will take several months for them to grow back. When trees shed their leaves in fall, we know that when spring comes, they will bloom again.
We learn to not take our lives for granted essentially because we know it will not last.
And because everything is transient, we learn to appreciate the importance of focusing on the moment we have now.
5) We move and grow at our own pace
Can you imagine a tree fruiting every single day at a rapid pace? And yet mainstream society often values people based on their productivity.
In nature, plants and trees each have their own time and pace. There’s a season to bloom and shed leaves, a season to hibernate and cast seeds.
This is why the Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu, a keen observer of nature himself, said, “Nature does not hurry, yet everything is accomplished.”
What would it look like for you to learn how your own unique body would like to move? When would it like to do things? How fast or how slow? What environment is most supportive for you?
A gentle curiosity with one’s self and honoring the answers that come—no matter how far they fall from norms—can prove to be a more sustainable way to one’s self-improvement.
6) We all have a purpose
The delicate balance of nature means even the smallest things contribute to the health of the entire ecosystem.
For example, while many beach resorts remove seagrass and mangroves because they find them unattractive, these were designed to be there by nature to serve multiple functions – from being hatching areas to breakers of storm surges.
In nature, every element has a specifically designed function and nothing is deemed less important than the other. In interdependence, each one draws strength and complements the other.
As humans, we can apply these observations in our lives: as we balance out each other’s qualities, we can co-exist peacefully and sustainably with each other and the earth.
7) Aim high but stay grounded
Strong and healthy trees are determined not just by their height but also the depth of their roots.
In people, those who remain steadfast in their principles and affirmed in their sense of self are known to be able to withstand challenges better than others.
You could liken people who gain success immensely fast then lose track and crash soon after to trees that fall down in storms because of their shallow roots.
This serves as inspiration for us that the higher and bigger our aspirations, the deeper we should cultivate our roots – in community, in integrity, and in full awareness of ourselves and the world around us.
As you aim high, it will be wise to make a list of the things and people that keep us grounded and stable. That way, when things get crazy, there will always be a solid foundation to hold onto.
8) When you let go of the past, you set your future free
Gautama Buddha reminds us that, “As the snake must shed its skin, we must shed our past over and over again.”
When you become too attached to past versions of yourself and the stories it holds, you are limiting your growth and losing awareness of the present moment.
In the same way that trees do not hold onto dead leaves, you can take only what serves you moving forward.
Leave the past behind and only carry the lessons moving forward.
9) Collaboration and community are essential to life
The importance of coexistence and interdependence is apparent to anyone who observes nature.
Fish cannot survive without the ocean.
Trees cannot survive without the wind.
And we all rely on water, the sun and the earth to survive.
Still, humans often base their success based on how well they can survive in isolation or in competition.
When they achieve success this way but still feel terribly unhappy, it is only then that they realize that the need for collaboration and community is as essential as the air we breathe.
10) Everything is a matter of perspective
A mountain seems insurmountable until you climb it—one small small step at a time. The depths of the oceans are fearsome until you learn to relax into diving and experience the pleasure of swimming with sea creatures.
In the same manner, we can complain about berries being sour… or use it to make excellent jam.
Instead of focusing on negativity you can transform even the most challenging situations into opportunities for growth.
Even the smallest ant can be a source of inspiration and enlightenment for the keen observer so it doesn’t matter if you’re not able to submerge yourself in the forest or the beach as often as you’d like.
A potted plant can train patience, while grass growing through cracks on the pavement can teach persistence.
As long as you remain aware of the wonders of creation, nature will be an eternal source of wisdom.