by Anna Marie Trotman

This is my favorite time of year where I’m ever more aware that in nature things are shifting and changing. It’s even more apparent when I’m being mindful of my surroundings.  Just as a formal mindfulness practice is nourishing in many ways, so is connecting to nature with an unhurried, meditative approach. A quiet walk along the Brandywine can have a therapeutic effect, especially given my busy and digitally loaded lifestyle. Putting my phone aside and spending time in nature leaves me feeling calm, refreshed and better-off mentally. When I sit on a rock and watch the geese float down the river and the sun setting through the trees, I feel refreshed and connected to something larger than myself.

Lessons from Nature

Nature has a way of removing distractions and capturing our attention. By approaching our relationship with Mother Nature mindfully, we begin to see that she is full of lessons that we can draw from, lessons which can inform and inspire our daily lives.

I was recently sitting in the living room area of The Birth Center when I spotted a Red Tail Hawk. I watched her for a few minutes, wings stretched out, feathers translucent as they caught the morning sun. As she floated down closer to the window I sat in awe of how marvelous nature is, even in the city. The hawk was probably looking for her breakfast and her quest offered me a powerful message. I watched her as she glided effortlessly through the air focusing on what was ahead with sharp vision and clarity. I thought about what this meant for me as I approach some of the complex challenges that life is currently offering. My task is to take on each challenge effortlessly, no need to flap my wings and struggle.

Think about what nature can teach you. It might take some practice to mindfully be in touch with the messages, keep a nature journal and see what comes up.

Nature the Perfect Remedy

The benefits of connecting with the natural world are supported by research.  A walk along the beach can bring about positive emotions and activate our parasympathetic nervous system. Such activities as hiking in the mountains can have a calming and restorative effect on our body, mind, and spirit. Mindfulness only enhances our ability to connect with nature and thus reinforces all the positive benefits.

Five Steps to Enhance Your Experience

Here are five steps to support you in having a great experience with nature. It’s your MUGPA!

  1. Make a Date: Put the time you want to spend with Mother Nature on your calendar. Find a place you want to walk or hike, then set an intention to be in the moment, to connect and be present with the beauty around you. Pay attention to your internal experience as well.
  2. Unplug! For sure it’s a challenge, a text comes in and you’re right on it. Give yourself permission to take time out, disconnected from your devices and be in the experience. Try unplugging for 10 minutes, set your timer so you’re not stressed.
  3. Get Inspired: No matter where you are you can find something in nature to be inspired by. Take a walk around your neighborhood and notice your surroundings. Experience a sunset or a moonrise and notice how you feel.
  4. Pause: We rarely pause between activities so don’t rush out the door; ground yourself in the moment so you don’t bring the stress and tension of a previous activity or conversation into your nature experience. Before setting off on your hike, take a few moments to allow yourself to come into the present moment. Take a couple of deep breaths; as you breathe in, breathe in calm and as you breathe out, let go of any thoughts or concerns that would get in the way of a peaceful experience.
  5. Awareness: Bring the qualities of mindfulness such as curiosity and non-judgmental awareness to your time in nature. This will enrich your experience with profound and insightful moments. Remember it may take some practice.

Mindfulness and Nature

Finally, the reason mindfulness and nature are a perfect complement to each other is that in mindfulness you can rest your attention on and experience your breath. This has a restorative and profound effect on your total self. Being mindful as you take a breath of fresh air on a crisp morning, listening to the crunch of newly fallen leaves as you walk slowly down a path, or sitting in a meadow watching the wind blow through the tall grass can all be enhanced through practicing mindfulness in nature.

Over 150 years ago Henry David Thoreau wrote these beautiful words that have become a model of inspiration for millions who love and appreciate nature.

“I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.”