Integrating humanity as nature: a Stoic and Buddhist perspective

Interacting with nature enhances health and wellbeing. However, we still no little about how this relationship works. A better understanding of this relationship is essential for the development of programs designed specifically to improve the wellbeing of participants. To date much of the research exploring the relationship between human beings and the rest of the natural world has remained in the deterministic traditions relying on the Cartesian notion of ‘subject’ and object’. Nature is seen as an object for the benefit of people and understanding how benefits happen is about understanding the impact of the object (i.e. natural environment) on the subject (i.e. people). This perspective of “nature” as the physical world outside our skin (except artificial technologically created objects) is fundamentally flawed. People are part of nature and therefore at a fundamental level being human is also being nature. However, the pull of modern western culture tends to focus on how we are separate from or estranged from nature as opposed to being part of. Natural environments are most often perceived to be ‘places’ often with minimal human interference. For ancient philosophers of most ancient Greek and eastern schools, nature includes people. Nature is understood as a process of life, of which human beings are an immanent part. Returning to nature and remembering that we are nature is essential for health and wellbeing. An often overlooked philosophical perspectives from the Buddhist and Stoic traditions provide a solid framework to guide intervention designers. For both traditions the only way to reach the state of awakening or flourishing is to surrender to natural laws. Stoicism and Buddhism propose that human flourishing is not achieved by ego expression, but rather by adjustment to the natural world, including the rhythms of the natural environment. Combining these similar concepts from Buddhist and Stoic philosophy provides a comprehensive picture of how the natural environment might enhance human wellbeing. In particular the Stoic notion of oikeiōsis and the Buddhist notions of mind awakening. The complementarity of these two approaches when combined provide effective guidance for the design and implementation of interventions for facilitating wellbeing through experiences in the natural world.

For the full paper:
Fabjanski, M. & Brymer, E. (2017) Enhancing health and wellbeing through immersion in nature: A conceptual perspective combining the Stoic and Buddhist traditions. Frontiers in Psychology, 8, 1573.


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