Parks Heal the Spirit and Make Us Whole

Usually this Labor Day weekend is full of traditions that now are interrupted by this Covid virus. Whether we usually visit with extended family or friends, travel, barbecue or participate in one last summer blast, the shelter in place order disrupts our traditions and eliminates the positive impact these touch stones provide, leading to greater anxiety and sense of loss. Our parks can help us heal the spirit and make us whole.
Walking meditation, a simple walk without form or structure, can help lower anxiety and erase the sense of isolation and disconnection. Through the centuries, many have written of the joy and centering provided by walking in nature. William Shakespeare wrote, “the Earth has music for those who listen.” You can silence the “monkey mind” that fills our brains with anxieties from the uncertainties, with the quiet time by being present to the details-the rustling of the trees, the low hum of insects, and the chirp of the birds. 
The old sentinel trees of our parks have served as solace to others before us as they walked through the grief of losing loved ones to great world events—the Spanish flu, the World Wars and armed conflicts, and the diseases of an earlier time, polio, small pox, measles, diphtheria, cholera. These old trees have comforted and calmed when San Jose residents were laden with worries from the Great Depression, the Great Recession, the Panic of 1873 and innumerable downturns. We know now that the trees exude healing oils into the air that allow our anxious feelings to lessen and improve our immunity, giving us strength to keep moving forward. Today’s younger trees can offer us the same help today.
For those times when household togetherness overwhelms, parks can help.  “There are times when solitude is better than society, and silence is wiser than speech,” Charles Spurgeon advised. A trip to a park can provide the quiet that allows us to find our way back to the love and affection for our family and housemates.