3 Tips to Cultivate Mindfulness When Outdoors
Recently, my Massage Therapist and friend, Jody Jackson from Universal Massage and Bodywork asked me if I would write an article about Nature and Mindfulness to share with her clients. I am grateful for this opportunity and hope that it will be helpful for those who want to get outdoors with a new outlook. Let me propose a unique way to use your outdoor experience.
Many, including myself, are attempting to manage the stress related to the COVID-19 virus spread. To strive for mindfulness is to release stress. When we are stressed we are not in the present, we are in the future. The state of mindfulness is about being in the present. When you are in Nature you can create a container of mindfulness by using the three tips I have provided. When I say the word container I am not saying to build walls. What I am saying is to set boundaries that are permeable and moveable, fluid. Almost like a floating bubble where you are the nucleus. You alone allow the flow from Nature. It’s your choice. This choice means you are the creator of your experience. Through my training and own experience I have come up with a simple formula to follow while practicing mindfulness in Nature. Here are three tips to contemplate the next time you seek to relieve stress and practice mindfulness in Nature: place, pace and pleasure.
Begin where you are standing, at home. Consider where you want to go. Your own yard or garden? A local green space? A park? That is your first choice of place. Let your choice of place be fluid if needed. There will be times that you have that certain place in mind but it’s a place that you need to hike to. No problem. When you get to that place just slow your pace. You will see in the next hints that place is something that can change according to what moves you. When you get to your destination use the following two hints to navigate your mindfulness practice.
Attend to your pace by slowing it down to a comfortable level, even pleasurable level. As you slow down consider this quote from Lao Tzo: “Nature does not hurry, yet everything is accomplished.” One way to begin your new pace is to observe the way the robin travels while on the ground. It moves and then it stills. Even the robin needs to stop to find the worm. What pleasure the nourishment brings to this bird. Possibly enough to let out a song after flying to a nearby branch. Feel free to slow it down even more. See if you can blend with the pace of Nature. This is totally different than what you may be accustom to but give yourself some slack. You’re trying something new and it will relieve stress and help you practice mindfulness. There was a time when I was descending a road in Houlton to the Stillwater Lift Bridge when I came across a small group of monks dressed in red robes. The site was very strange but even more strange was the way they were moving. They were walking in what I perceived as an awkward way. It was extremely slow. Now that I have learned about the practice of mindfulness I have a better understanding of what was happening. It can feel ackward at first to slow your pace but you will find that you can harmonize with the land you walk on.
As you begin at your robin’s pace you may decide to linger even longer than the robin. What is it that brought you to the place you chose? The warmth of the sun? Shade from a tree? The smell of the musky woods? The feel of the soft breeze on your skin? The sound of a bird you haven’t heard before? The pattern of buds on a branch? Our curiosity can cause us to stop if we allow it to. In Nature there are pleasures we take for granted. Pleasures of the senses.
Give yourself permission to linger with all that you find pleasurable in Nature. This is where you are the creator of what comes in and goes out of your container. These pleasures are very stress reducing and draw us to be present thus to practice our mindfulness.
Give yourself some time out there. Try not to check your watch too often. If you catch yourself making mental lists please let it go. A lot can be learned if you let yourself linger and wander in Nature. When you return home, there’s a good chance you will have a stronger clarity than when you left. Also, pay attention to anything from your outing that stands out. It could be a message in a bottle for you. Nature has a way of reflecting for us what is important for us as individuals. One more thing to remember is that this is all about you and you are doing it as a measure of self-care.