Marie-Josee Shaar is the author of “Smarts and Stamina: the Busy Person’s Guide to Optimal Health and Performance.” Her mission is to reverse the current epidemics of sleep deprivation, obesity, depression, and physical inactivity. A Master of Applied Positive Psychology (MAPP), she is certified as a Nutrition and Wellness Consultant and as a Personal Trainer. Please visit www.SmartsAndStamina.com for more information.
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I am just back from the most amazing trip of my life. I visited Maui, a breathtakingly beautiful island where I experienced multiple moments of awe, elevation, spirituality, and connection with all things larger than myself. I had the daily pleasure to savor wholesome, real food right off of a tree or out of the ocean. I had time for meaningful interactions with other people, and for being in the moment while doing so.
Avatar as a Proxy
I also recently had the pleasure to see the movie Avatar (Directed by James Cameron), which somehow stroke the same chord in me as Maui. For those who have never been to Maui and may not have an immediate opportunity to go, Avatar can serve as somewhat of a proxy.
Avatar is the story of Jake, a soldier who is sent to meet the Na’vi, the inhabitants of Pandora. Pandora is a beautiful land where nature and Eywa (their deity) guide the way of living. Jake’s mission is to convince the Na’vi to leave their territory so the military can mine precious metals from its ground.
But Jake is in for a surprise. Rather than advancing the military cause he was sent to serve, he finds himself increasingly appreciative of how the Na’vi think, relate, and live. He discovers the beauty of the connection between all living things. Pandora turns out to be a mind and heart opener. It helps Jake get in touch with his own humanity.
Making the Connection
DSCN4940What happens to Jake is quite similar to what happened to me in Maui. We both stepped outside our usual worlds. Guided by the rhythm of nature, we were in better touch with our best selves. Stephen and Rachel Kaplan, Psychologists at the University of Michigan, explain that nature experiences can have profound effects on a person’s psychology. That’s certainly what happened to me. Stepping outside the demands of urbanization stimulated my strengths of open-mindedness, appreciation of beauty, and capacity to love.
At the end of my trip to Maui and at the end of Avatar, I cried. Cried for more connection with Mother Earth. Cried for future generations who, unless we start taking the environment more seriously, may not get the chance to experience the awe, elevation, and spirituality I found.
Today, I am more motivated than ever to be respectful of the environment through the dozens of everyday choices that we know about and should never fail to make. Go see Avatar if you haven’t already, and join me in this motion.
The human past used to be filled with connections to nature. I may be a bit of a dreamer, but I hope there is still time to make it the way of the future.
Author’s note: I would like to thank two real gentlemen who inspired me as I wrote this article. Kind, generous and always-fun-to-be-around Jeremy McCarthy, MAPP suggested I write about my trip to Maui. You can follow him on Twitter here: @jeremymcc.
Then equally generous motivational specialist Emmanuel Lopez, also known by his superhero name Motivatorman encouraged me to draw parallels between Maui and Avatar. For more info on how Avatar can inspire you, please see his blog entry “Tip#314: Step Outside Your World For Awhile – Avatar“.
Both photos courtesy of the author.
Britton, K. (2007). Sustainability: From Denial and Depression to Hope and Personal Responsibility, Positive Psychology News Daily.
Carpenter, D. (2009). Green Psychology, Positive Psychology News Daily.
Kaplan, R., & Kaplan, S. (1989). The Experience of Nature: A Psychological Perspective. New York: Cambridge University Press.
Pollan, M. (2008). In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto. New York: Penguin.
World Watch Institute (2010). State of the World 2010: Transforming Cultures: From Consumerism to Sustainability. W. W. Norton.