“Everyone of us already has the seed of mindfulness. The practice is to cultivate it” -Thich Nhat Hanh
To some, meditation may feel unaccessible. It’s a practice that often seems too time consuming, too difficult or unfamiliar, or maybe it just seems impossible simply because a quiet mind is a foreign concept. But truthfully, meditation is all about tuning in, and nature is arguably one of the best places to begin to do so.
Often when we try to meditate, our minds circle back to work, relationships, chores, errands, or whatever else may be on our minds. To go out into nature, is already to breakaway from your day to day, a brief escape from the modern world. Whether it be a local park or a mountain retreat, whether it be for as little as 5-10 minutes or as long as multiple hours or even days, the important thing to remember is that meditation is a practice that recognizes quality over quantity. The amount of time spend meditating matters much less than how focused and present you are during that meditation.
“Wherever we are, we can take a deep breath, feel our body, open our senses, and step outside the endless stories of the mind” – Jack Kornfield
Bringing yourself into the moment is all about tuning in, making many of our exercises in nature meditative. Take bird-watchers as an example, who can be brought into the moment by parsing out the songs of the birds, looking for subtle movements among the trees. And just like that we are tuned in with a keen eye and a keen ear.
Here are two simple meditative practices in nature for anyone to try:
- Identify 5 smells, then 5 sounds, then 5 sights, then 5 feelings. This activates your mind to think in the present and puts your senses directly in touch with your surroundings. This easy practice of active meditation can be used in other situations as well and has worked for me in times when anxiety is rising to the surface. This simple, active practice sharpens our focus by igniting our senses and brings our mind to the present by thinking “what is” instead of “what if”.
- The first step in this next practice is to chose a comfortable location and position yourself to be there for a moment. This practice involves creating a sound map by identifying sounds around you and where they’re coming from. Your mind begins to create an intricate map of your surroundings in that moment, connecting sounds with the sights of that location. The point is for you to remain in the same positioning while becoming acutely aware of the world and the moment that unfolds around you.