By observing the lifestyles of people around the world who still live naturally we can get a better idea of what is natural for us. We can take away some important aspects which we can prioritise in our own lives to make them more natural; Self, Tribe, Habitat, Food, Movement, Life.
Looking at these six aspects we can see how they are intrinsically linked, why you need to keep them in balance and how we can prioritise them in modern life.
It might be common sense to look after yourself as without doing so you can’t really live, but when we look at indigenous people they have quite a different view of the self than we do. They have a strong sense of who they are and where they fit in the world and their community. With this sense of ease they don’t feel the need to do more or get more to be better than others, working for personal gain over the community. This doesn’t mean they don’t look after themselves, but in contributing to their community all their needs are met. They are fed, healthy and happy and understand their place in the world by being a part of their community.
Comparing this to our society it might seem similar, we contribute through work and our needs are met through our payslip. But I think it’s fair to say that most people work for the money rather than to contribute and it’s that subtle mindset shift that makes all the difference. Despite the fact that we work primarily for our own gain we actually get less out of it; we’re overworked, tired, don’t nourish our bodies with good food or movement and get to spend less time with our loved ones and we often think that working harder for more money will get us what we want.
We need to take a step back, realise we’ve been working harder to get more for ourselves and fill the gap of not being comfortable with who we are. As a result we’ve neglected the other five aspects and lost the things that actually nourish us. Lets discover who we are not by filling the void with material wealth but by seeking out the important things in life.
As we said above indigenous people have a really strong sense of community far beyond what we normally think of. That’s because we our highly social animals, our lives depended on our tribe. Even though our lives might not be in danger without a tribe any more we rely on our tribe for our mental health and for support in times of need.
Within indigenous life the divisions between family, friends, neighbours and the rest of the community are virtually non-existent compared to our society. Within living memory the divisions in our society have expanded, interactive communities reduced to extended families, then to nuclear families to families barely spending time together. Now we have hundreds of online friends but only spend a small amount of time with a small number of people actually face to face.
Let’s start connecting better with more people and having more face to face interactions. Let’s break down some of the barriers which make us afraid to talk to people we don’t know. Let’s build stronger bonds throughout our communities without over stretching ourselves or neglecting those closest to us.
Just as our community is an integral part of who we are, so is the environment we live an integral part of our community and therefore an integral part of us. People living in natural environments know and understand every ebb, flow and connection within their homelands. They understand that the health of their home directly affects their health, so they have a strong connection to nature.
We no longer live in a natural environment, but that doesn’t mean we can’t appreciate where we live and the nature within it. Your home, work place, local park, town and everywhere you spend time all affect you without you even noticing, physically and mentally, but you also affect your environment just as much as it affects you.
By making deliberate decisions in how you live you can benefit yourself and your environment. This is especially true of your natural environment, we come from and always will be a part of nature and the benefits that nature has on us are priceless. By reconnecting with where we live, both man made and natural, we can benefit everyone and everything.
Food plays such an important role in the life of every animal, not just humans. But by food I don’t just mean the things we eat, I mean everything we put into our bodies – solid foods, the water we drink, the air we breathe , the things we put on our skin and the sunlight we absorb, they are all so important.
As humans we took this to whole extra level, much of our social bonding was made over the gathering, hunting, preparing and appreciation of food and the other forms of nutrition. It’s such an important part that every society has it’s own food customs and they almost always celebrate through food.
How did we get to a point where people don’t have time to spend on food? Where we barely socialise over food, where food is just fuel, where we happily put things into our bodies when we don’t know what they’re made of. Where we rely on experts to tell us what to eat, where we throw away good food because we rely on a label instead of our senses.
Let’s reconnect with food and everything else that feeds us. Let’s start truly enjoying our food, not just blindly putting things inside us because they are easy and convenient. Let’s make food an important part of our lives again.
Moving is the way we are meant to interact with everything; people, environment, food. We evolved to move, we have big brains to coordinate complex movements. The life of indigenous people is full of movement; the collection of food, water and shelter. Even in their spare time they dance, play and compete. They don’t think of it as something to do, a chore, it’s just how life is.
Now our lives are full of sedentary tasks, and even when we have a chance to move we often look for the gadget that makes it easier, that does the movement for us. Past a certain age we discourage true play and promote competitive sports, promoting the choice of just one which narrows movement more. We view movement as a chore, as exercise, as something to be done because we over indulge, we want maximum bang for our buck and a quick fix.
Let’s fix this relationship, relearn how to play, how moving doesn’t have to be a chore but something to enjoy. Remind ourselves that just by living we can get most of the “exercise” that we need. Let’s rediscover that we are strong, graceful adaptable animals not the soft, fragile ones we have become.
Common throughout indigenous people is a love of life and living. They enjoy culture beyond just surviving. They dance, play music, tell stories, have contests, create art and celebrate. For them living is truly a gift to be enjoyed.
The same forms of fun are common in our society along with many others.. The big difference is that we often leave those things to experts, those who have committed their whole life to that art form, and we just watch instead of take part. We no longer actively take part in the things that people world wide express themselves through.
This isn’t to say that we need to get good at everything, but just take part in life rather than observing it all the time. Take up a hobby or two. Do something that you enjoy, that nourishes you, it doesn’t have to be one of the common forms of culture it could be anything as long as you enjoy it.
Maintaining a love of life is also a reminder to keep everything in balance, focus too much in one area and the others will suffer. Don’t let being healthy stop you from letting your hair down once in a while and don’t let your hobbies or living life up make you neglect the people who are important to you.
How can you prioritise and keep a balance of these things in your life?
Movement – Beach cartwheel by Alex Peel
Self, tribe, habitat, food, life photos sourced from pixabay