Imagine you were sitting under a tree, with the trunk to your back. Soft shade around you. There is a stream in front of you, and you notice orange flowers and the long green curves of leaves.
There is a puff of a light breeze and you can see foliage moving around you, the bright orange flower nodding and waving gently. As you shift your awareness into a soft gaze you can see more of the whole picture, the movement of the air as it touches the plants and then feel it on your skin and entering your nostrils. You sense you are part of the landscape, the world around you sustains you. You allow the thoughts to come and go, like the puffs of wind. You can hear a bird sing or call from the tree above. “Check! Check!” You notice a feeling of excitement. Not wanting to disturb the bird you start turning your head and ears softy towards the sound for a moment, the bird remains hidden in the canopy, calls again and flies off. A glimpse of the undulating flight and your mind says “Aha! Woodpecker!”.
A couple of breaths in help you centre yourself and once again, senses awake, you return to the awareness of breath, the changing feelings inside and the world outside. You remember your being here, now, is enough. You can accept that nature is, and so am I. Sensations, thoughts and emotions come and go like the birds, clouds, wind. I am like a tree. I have a place in the world. I have many gifts. I am enough. Scientists could tell me that my brainwaves are beginning to drop into the more relaxed and aware Alpha state. Many emotions and events come and go and yet I can remain upright, connected and share my breath with the world…
Mindfulness is a very simple and effective way of training the attention to be present to the here and now. Nature is constantly in the here and now. Practicing mindfulness in nature can be very effective way to:
- Increase general health and wellbeing
- Reduce stress and anxiety,
- Help with unwanted habits,
- Develop a deep appreciative relationship with nature and self,
- Remember the innocence and playful genius of the inquisitive and inventive child mind
- Increase creativity and productiveness
- Help with relationship issues,
- As well as simply do less and use less global resources!!
Nature connection in its many aspects and core routines, which include simple nature based games like hide and seek and blindfold challenges, ” sit spot”naturalist activity, “forest bathing”, traditional crafts, tracking, understanding bird language, wandering, mapping, journaling and even photography…. all these activities call us to our senses, to be present, to observe, to awareness.
Games in Nature
A sufi proverb is “If in doubt, go for a walk”. The simple process of going of a walk in nature can help the mind flow through it’s circular, stressful or depressive thoughts, to drop into a rhythm and allow new thoughts to arrive. Nature can help us be called to attention to the present, and for the whole of our beings to shift or a view bring a new perspective.
Art in Nature
Doing temporary art in nature is another fantastic way to bring mindfulness and awareness into a simple activity…flow states can be reached simply and quickly. A flow state is a kind of moving mindfulness meditation where the brain settles into a different and with trained mentoring and artful questioning many layers of meaning and can be discovered and light shed on the less illuminated parts of the mind.
Amazingly, in my work in schools I have noticed how a simple hammock can bring a great sense of peace and alter the brain fun actioning of autistic spectrum children. Hammock therapy! Hammocks are also a great place to relax and meditate and gaze at the forest. Research in Japan has shown that ten minutes of being in a forest brings significant reduction in cortisol levels in the blood. I imagine ten minutes in a hammock in lovely trees may work in the same way!
Stillness in your field
Mindfulness in Nature can thus bring many benefits to individuals and groups… though fun and centering practices that are simple and have been part of the human evolutionary story for thousands of years. Mindfulness can help us away from the frantic and stressful pace of life return to the source of our existence, and having found a way to become centred and relaxed at any time, you can literally stand out in your field! With thanks to our breath, the trees and all of creation.