Human connection to nature is undeniable. You are a part of the living earth as much as the trees outside your window. It’s a fundamental truth, but it can be easy to forget.
There was a time when we spent our days immersed in the natural world, living alongside the plants and wildlife we depended on for survival. Our connection with other living things was deep; our lives intertwined with theirs. That’s still true, but rather than living as a part of it each day, now we must seek out the natural world. What we discover when we find it is reconnection, and a feeling that might be described as belonging. Nature is our home. That may be why a quick internet search will produce endless articles covering the ways it makes us healthier and happier. From reducing our stress and anxiety and improving our sleep and memory, to helping us avoid or recover more quickly from illness, nature is essential to our wellbeing.
Like time spent outdoors, practicing mindfulness has positive effects on our mental, physical, and social health. Mindfulness is awareness. When we’re aware, our minds are connected to our bodies and surroundings, and we live more fully in the here and now, better able to appreciate what is real and beautiful in the present. Mindfulness can be practiced anywhere, but when we practice in nature, we enhance the benefits of both, and deepen our connection with the earth.
How to Walk or Sit Mindfully in Nature
Bring your awareness to the soles of your feet. Feel the solidity of the earth beneath you, supporting you.
If you’re walking, go slowly; there is nowhere to arrive.
Concentrate on your breath, count “in 1, out 1, in 2, out 2…” up to 10, then back to 1. Relax your body, releasing tension with every outbreath. If you’re sitting, place your hands on your chest, feel it rise and fall.
Continue breathing, and notice the quality of the air – its freshness, coolness, or warmth, the scents it carries, its sensation on your skin. Feel it enter your nose and fill your lungs. It is the breath of the trees, exhaled for you.
Bring your awareness to any sounds. The movements of wildlife, birdsong, shaking leaves on a branch, the wind in the grass. If you’re walking, hear the sound of your body moving through the landscape. You are a part of it, too. If it’s quiet, listen to the silence. Let its stillness fill you.
Come back to awareness of the earth beneath you. Imagine its strength moving up and through your body, steadying you. It has always held you, and it always will.
Continue to walk or sit for as long as you like, always returning to your breath and your senses, staying in the present moment.