Meditating in Nature: 3 Effortless Techniques to Help You Connect to the Outdoors
Table of Contents
When I first started meditating after attending a 10 day silent vipassana course, it was recommended that I keep my meditation practice indoors. The reason for this was pretty straightforward. The outside world is full of distractions and would only hinder my progression.
This was sound advice for sure, and for the most part, I keep my morning meditation session inside.
However, I have discovered that spending time in nature can be a great opportunity to incorporate more mindfulness into my life.
In this article, I’ll share a few techniques I use to connect to the outside world and draw from the wisdom of nature to help develop a sense of peace and awareness.
Where to Meditate in Nature?
I live in London, which at first glance would seem like an unlikely place to go looking for trees and plants.
City life, however, doesn’t necessarily exclude you from natural beauty. You just have to know where to look and make the most out of what you’ve got.
If you live in a rural area, you’ll be spoilt for choice, but even if you can only get to a tiny bit of woodland or an urban park, you’ll have the opportunity to practice these techniques.
Techniques for Meditating in Nature
All of these techniques could be practised virtually anywhere, from the beach to woodland or even your garden. Just keep the intention of staying connected to nature and observing what is happening around you.
Mindful contemplation is a meditation practice that aims to develop a sense of connection and deep presence by concentrating on a small element of nature such as an individual flower, a bird, or even the wind.
Begin by setting aside an amount of time you want to be mindful for, you could set a timer on your phone, but you don’t have to. Just have the intention of being open and mindful of your surrounding for a set amount of time.
Observe your surrounding with open awareness, and when you take a particular interest in an object, follow that instinct and focus on it.
For example, you might find yourself drawn to a flower. Stop and examine that flower, trying to observe every detail that you can. You’ll find that the more you pay attention to it, the more detailed it will become.
Try to maintain a sense of contemplative presence. Stay aware of body sensations, your breath and any thoughts or feeling that arise.
Awareness of Sound
The sounds of nature are an excellent focus for our attention. When you find yourself being drawn to the sound of a bird chirping or insects buzzing, stop whatever you are doing and take a few minutes to observe.
Be mindful of the sound itself-the volume, the tone, the vibration. Even the sounds of cars in the background or other people sharing the space with you are valid.
Initially, the sound might not be of interest, but as you concentrate on it and deepen your awareness of it, you will begin to notice its subtleties and nuances.
What’s important with this practice is to try not to judge any of the sounds. The goal is to be open to whatever sounds arise. Don’t search for pleasant sounds, and don’t reject unpleasant sounds. Just sit with whats is present. Listen and become aware.
Walking meditation is a Buddhist tradition that can be practised virtually anywhere. By focusing on each step as we walk slowly, we remind ourselves that the mind and body are closely linked and that we can harness the breath and our bodies by using them more mindfully.
Labyrinth meditation is a variation of this, which helps incorporate a bit more nature into the practice. The first part of this practice involves creating a maze or labyrinth out of rocks that you can find outdoors to create a route for your walking practice.
Try to be mindful of this process, contemplating the rocks that you find, how they differ from each other, and noticing how they are arranged, creating a sense of effortless awareness.
This is also a great mindfulness activity for kids, as they will be excited to create their own labyrinths and may even enjoy getting involved in meditating too.
Benefits of Meditating in Nature
Allowing yourself time to unwind by getting out into the fresh air can help you connect with your senses and maintain a healthy mind.
There have been many rigorous studies showing that spending time in nature boosts cognitive performance, leading to less mental fatigue when you get back to everyday life.
Simply looking at trees has already been proven to reduce heart rate and blood pressure in humans, so it only makes sense that meditating in nature would also positively affect someone’s overall health.
Being mindful in nature will help you develop a deeper connection to it, and it won’t be long before you start to notice the benefits of taking time out to connect with the world around you.
Nature-Based Meditation Retreats
If you are looking to commit a bit more time than an afternoon to connect with the peace and quiet of the outdoors, why not take a nature-based meditation retreat?
There are plenty of meditation centres and wilderness retreats around the world that combine some mindful exercises with some quality solitude.
The Esalen Institute in Big Sur, California, offers a wide range of meditation retreats that combine some nature-based activities with traditional meditation techniques.