Nature Can Guide Us Through Our Life Growth Cycles
by Brittany Gowan – New York City

Turn To The Sun

Breathe In Nature And Breathe Out Stress. This simple yet powerful mantra is the foundation of my nature-centered approach to mindfulness.

Growth is synonymous with terms like stretch, extend, lengthen, develop, and mature. The natural world exemplifies these actions, displaying patience interspersed with periods of commanding change. With the guidance of the natural world’s patterns, we can learn about our own growth cycles. Perhaps we identify with the late bloomers of fall, like sage and asters. Or we might gain personal insight by noticing the massive waiting game nature plays in spring, holding its cards close, guarding its reveal until each tree bud or bulb is ready to burst into season.

Seasonal visuals can usher nature’s choreography of growth into our daily headspace. By living within the framework of nature-focused awareness, our attention is connected to a natural path toward growth and flourishing.

For nature to grow well, it must meet the challenges that arise. The same goes for people. Left unchallenged and unbothered, we may never encounter the opportunity to adapt, grow, and become stronger. When we focus on mindful thoughts and actions, we can develop the physical, emotional, and mental tools needed to embrace life’s challenges, cultivating what is necessary to thrive and pruning away what isn’t.

Now imagine what a pumpkin patch looks like in early summer. If you check for growth one day and again a few days later, nothing appears to be different. Yet returning to this patch in autumn, you’ll see energetic progress. Over time, the plants unveil rapid gains and produce flowers, then fruits in the form of harvest-ready pumpkins.

In a similar way, if we critically monitor our growth on a daily basis, it will become difficult to see advancement. But when we step back with mindful awareness, we see how our growth can be slow but constant like pumpkins. Stages of incremental growth build upon each other, strengthening our mind and body throughout the process.

From the length of our hair and nails to the rapid development of young children and baby animals, physical growth is a tangible reminder that some piece of our existence is always changing. These visible changes also invite us to become more aware of the growth we can’t see in our emotional lives.

The groundwork for plant growth starts underneath the surface. Before a plant can develop an enormous flower that hypnotizes our senses, it must first grow a strong and healthy composition in its roots and stems. Like a bulb in the ground, our foundational growth develops unseen within our mental and emotional space. We support our health and well-being when we grow a secure root structure of mental calm and sturdy stems of positive thoughts and actions.

At times, we may want to cultivate something in our lives, but it’s not the right setting or timing to foster growth. Rocky soil—or an equally difficult personal situation—may not lend itself to the process we’re so eager to begin. And when we continue to plant in the same cultivated plot over and over again, previously fertile soil can start to get tired. Looking to reap new outcomes in old habits may yield little of our desired bounty. If we desire to create growth, there is value in following our instincts. When things don’t feel ripe for progress, it may be time to move on and begin to cultivate something new.

Even when you can’t cultivate the way you want to in action, you can start by cultivating an idea in your mind. Think like a farmer and imagine that your livelihood relies on your ability to cultivate crops for sale. Your life requires this same attention, but that can get sidelined by the busyness of your days. During gaps in your awareness, the weeds of negative thoughts and feelings can creep back in. Yet when you take the time to be patient and carefully cultivate your thoughts, you can grow in happiness and fulfillment. Through mindful intention and consistency, you can cultivate a strong mental garden and discover that your awareness is a trustworthy place to reside.

Practicing moment-to-moment mindfulness gives you the tools to step back and be an objective observer and to recognize what is going on in your mind and situations. Instead of being overly attached to whatever thoughts or feelings are passing through, including stressful ones, you can be fully in the moment without judging yourself or others.

Caring for plant life is a great way to cultivate your awareness and ability to focus on the task at hand, quieting the noise of stressful thoughts. By exercising this type of mindfulness and living in the present moment, you can stay connected to what you are experiencing right now. You’ll notice that whatever happened in the past can’t weigh you down, the future isn’t intimidating, and anything that creates feelings of stress has less pull.

If you take the time to cultivate something good outside yourself, you’ll likely find that it has a positive effect on your thoughts and emotions as well.

Taken from Turn to the Sun: Your Guide to Release Stress and Cultivate Better Health Through Nature by Brittany Gowan, © 2024 Brittany Gowan. Used by permission of Harper Celebrate.

Brittany GowanBrittany Gowan is a leader in nature-centered stress management and mindfulness. Drawing from her background in psychology, professional coaching, and photography, she incorporates a nature-centered approach to self-care, personal development, and positive mental health. Her book Turn to the Sun: Your Guide to Release Stress and Cultivate Better Health Through Nature is on sale now. Learn more at





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