5 Lessons from Mother Nature
Updated: Dec 1, 2020
The healing of our environment is really a healing of our relationship with nature. We need to remember our dependency on and oneness with Mother Nature on a global scale in order to change our habits and create a truly sustainable future.
The symmetry is everywhere: from the cycles of moon and menstruation to the shapes of DNA and galaxies. The best way to heal that relationship is to start listening. Here are 6 lessons from our Mother I’ve been mulling over recently.
1. Trust your gut
Our culture values analytic thinking more than intuition and emotional intelligence. This is a cultural belief, but not necessarily a reflection of truth.
In Sherri Mitchell’s chapter in All We Can Save entitled Indigenous Prophecy and Mother Earth, she writes about all the Indigenous wisdom that has been dismissed by Western scientists for lack of hard evidence. For example, Indigenous people have long been speaking of the interconnectedness between species. Western academics brushed this off as unimportant and untrue because they didn’t have hard proof.
It wasn’t until recently that research confirmed what Indigenous people have known for generations: there is an interconnectedness between at least 2.3 million species on earth.
In another perfect example, the very advice I’ve given you above—to “trust your gut”—came about because people instinctively feel important emotions or answers to big decisions in their stomach. This idea has been around so long I can’t find the origin, but research has only recently proved its relevance: scientists have found neurons in the digestive system that relay information to the brain. Known as the brain-gut connection, this proves that there is a close relationship between our digestion and our mental state. Research has even shown that conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome are closely linked with anxiety and depression. This proves the connection people have been intuitively feeling for generations.
All this to say there may not be hard and fast proof for what you feel or think, but that doesn’t mean it’s not right. It might simply mean the evidence hasn’t caught up with your intuition yet.
Our brains don’t know everything, but our bodies know more than we give them credit for. We’d do well to listen to them.
2. Prioritize collaboration over competition
Underneath the forest floor lives something cheeky researchers have dubbed the “wood wide web,” a network of thin fungus woven in, around, and between the roots of plants and trees. The technical term is mycelium. This intricate web connects plants in the forest, allowing them to exchange nutrients, water, and information. Through the mycelium, trees communicate when pests are arriving to warn other trees, and dying trees send their nutrients and water to younger generations. The beauty of this system makes me want to cry every time.
The most amazing part is this: mycelium doesn’t only connect one species of trees to their siblings. That was the prevailing theory for a while, but now researchers have found that mycelium links the birch trees with the redwoods with the ferns with the firs. By acting as the highway for nutrients, mycelium pumps the byproducts one plant produces into the soil where another plant can utilize it and release their own byproduct. It allows each plant to do what it’s meant to do in service to the greater good.
When we collaborate with others with complementary strengths, everyone can stay in their “genius zone” and focus on what they’re great at. No one is doing something they don’t want to do, and the work is elevated as a result.
At Moxie, we know copywriting, but we are not designers. We partner with graphic and web designers all the time to provide branding or websites to clients who need the full package. Rather than spending time, money, and energy attempting to learn design (and still ending up mediocre at it), we rely on the brilliant designers in our community. They in turn do the same. When we work together, we give clients a comprehensive deliverable that’s the result of each of our distinct areas of expertise. We’re able to provide far more together than we could individually.
When we collaborate, it empowers each of us to focus on what we’re great at. It empowers us to give to one another.
3. Foster diversity over uniformity
If you examine a prairie or natural forest, you’ll notice several species of plants coexisting in the same area. If you examine most farms in the US, you’ll notice a single species of crop in each field.
Nature prefers diversity. Tomatoes, for instance, pull nitrogen from the soil whereas legumes such as alfalfa and peas pump nitrogen into the soil. When these plants are grown in tandem, or if they’re alternated in the same garden bed each year, the soil can regenerate without our needing to interfere with fertilizers.
(Side note: Imagine if we applied these concepts to large-scale farming in the US! The movement towards permaculture and regenerative agriculture is striving for exactly that: emulating the diversity naturally found in our environment.)
Diversity is just as beneficial in our lives. We thrive when surrounded by people with differing backgrounds and experiences. It gives us a richer understanding of the human experience. When we listen to people different from ourselves, we understand more about the world and our place in it. Only once we have that understanding can we create the equitable future we strive for.
4. Adapt to your environment
The natural world is constantly adapting. For better or for worse, the environment adapts to the changes thrown at it in order to survive. In response to climate change, temperatures and weather patterns have shifted; the chemistry of the ocean has fundamentally changed. Individual animals and plants adjust their life cycles based on what is happening around them and what is to come.
Nature doesn’t pretend things are the same as they were yesterday.
The world today isn’t the same one you were born into, and next year will be different from this one. It’s ok. As long as we stay aware and adapt to the current moment, we’ll find our next step.
Be honest with yourself: What’s changing in your life? What’s to come? What are you holding onto that no longer works?
While there is plenty in the world you can’t control, you can decide who and what surrounds you. Spend time with people you admire and want to learn from. Fill your work space and home with belongings, art, scents, and experiences that elicit feelings of grounding and make you feel like yourself. Go out into nature to listen and absorb.
Observe, adapt, repeat.
5. Balance the feminine and masculine
In Proposals for the Feminine Economy, Jennifer Armbrust discusses the feminine and masculine qualities inherent in all of us. She suggests capitalism is the result of masculine traits dominating, resulting in a focus on ego, competition, hierarchy, and ownership. Then she proposes a new kind of economy—a feminine economy—that values mindfulness, collaboration, sustainability, and care. (I personally think her views of masculine and feminine are a bit too black and white—I don’t think all masculine qualities are objectively negative and all feminine qualities are objectively superior—but I agree with her point overall.)
In this new feminine economy, we can rely on each other for collaboration, diversity, and connection, especially connection with nature. Jennifer’s first two Principles for Prototyping a Feminist Business are “1. You have a body,” and “2. You are connected with the earth, the plants, and all living beings.” She writes about normalizing empathy, leading with your values, and being honest. Yes, yes, and YES.
These ideas reach far wider than just entrepreneurship.
Practice balancing masculine traits with feminine ones: check ambition with compassion, growth with sustainability, and answering with asking. If we start with ourselves, the change will ripple outward.
If these seem repetitive, it’s because they’re all interconnected. Borrowing inspiration from nature means acknowledging how each piece is an essential part of the whole and examining all the intricate ways in which they are interwoven.
You can learn about the books recommended above and some of our other favorites on our resources page. We’d love to hear what you think—follow us on social to get in conversation.