One of Beth’s favorite ways to experience the present moment is through walking in nature. It’s a beautiful, peaceful experience that can be new every time, even if you’re walking the same path. Being in nature improves your well-being, including positivity, memory, and compassion, for starters. Try the following practice that you can do as you walk in nature on your own:
Come with a beginner’s mind.
A common phrase in mindfulness, a beginner’s mind allows you to approach this moment, this particular walk, without bringing any expectations from a previous walk or what you’ll find along the way. It allows you to be fully influenced by the moment and the experience, rather than letting your biases and expectations influence them instead.
Before setting off on your walk, take 10 seconds to breathe and ground yourself as you’re about to enter this magical world where everything is new to you.
Notice what you feel.
Feel yourself in this space. Walk slowly to gain a sense of presence on the path. How does the ground feel beneath your feet? Breathe deeply and notice if your breath and your pace align, or if you breathe and walk at different speeds.
If you’re carrying a backpack or other items, what does that feel like? Do you notice any heat or chill? Notice the difference between where clothing is covering your skin and where it is not. Can you feel the wind? Can you feel sweat? If you can, expand your awareness to your entire body, to be present there all at once.
Notice what you hear.
Can you hear your steps? If it’s quiet enough, you may also be able to hear your breath. Notice the sounds of nature around you - birds, leaves rustling in the wind, sticks cracking. Notice the other sounds you’re making - clothes rubbing, water in your bottle sloshing. Expand your awareness, if you can, to the entire experience.
Notice what you smell.
Without identifying the smells, notice how they make you feel, how the smells cause you to respond. “Smells like _____” is a judgement from previous experience to refrain from, if you’re able.
Take snacks and water mindfully.
When you stop to drink or eat a snack, do it slowly. Notice how it feels in your hand, and look at it to observe what it looks like. Don’t swallow right away - hold it in your mouth and feel any texture, notice the taste. Mentally follow the food or drink as far down your throat as you can feel it. Notice if any smells of nature are influencing the way you’ve experienced your snack or drink.
Take it all in.
Stop at the summit, or at a part in the trail where you can sit and observe. Sometimes we like to say we feel small, or we feel big, when we’re looking at the magnificence in nature. How does that make you feel? Can you imagine that you are part of all of this? How deeply can you sink into this moment, and become a part of nature where you are seated?
After mindfulness experiences, it’s a great idea to journal and get out your reactions, or any feelings that arise from your experience. We love to bring journals and do that right there at the summit before heading back.
How do you practice mindfulness in nature? We’d love to hear your version of this practice!
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