Written by Marcy Laufer - writer, nature-lover, and mindfulness student. Check out additional work created by Marcy here.
Mindfulness permeates many aspects of our lives, and we often find ourselves returning to wild spaces to reconnect with ourselves and the world around us. We seek peace and quiet from our seemingly endless work schedules and everyday stressors. When faced with the ever-popular term of “mindfulness,” it can seem daunting to figure out exactly what it is, or where to start.
The cross-legged, hands-to-heart, quiet-space you might think of when you hear the word “meditation,” is only one way to practice meditation and mindfulness. In fact, meditation is just one way to practice, and you might be surprised to find that you’ve really been practicing mindful habits all along, but just haven’t recognized them as such.
As you walk along the trail, you may notice the way the cool morning air hits your nostrils, or the light swelling in your fingers as your body redirects its blood flow. Maybe you watch the trees sway lightly in the breeze, and watch big white cotton balls float neatly along the skyline. You may take a moment to let the sun soak into your skin and stand in the silence of a forest dusted with fresh snow you liken to powdered sugar.
Photo by Green Ant
These moments of noticing, feeling, tasting, and immersing yourself in your surroundings, or tuning into the connection between your body and movements and the space around you, are all ways of practicing mindfulness. In fact, green and blue spaces, which encompass spaces like forests, mountains, parks, lakes, ponds, fountains, etc, have been shown to play an important role in providing a place to connect with our senses, practice spirituality, and positively contribute to our overall health and well-being.
Meditating in outdoor spaces can not only help reinforce our mind-body connection, but also allow us to connect with the places we choose to recreate and the activities we do, on a deeper level. Mindfulness meditation is not about emptying the mind, or trying to control our thoughts, but rather practicing continual awareness of sensations in the body and patterns of thought. It requires us to focus on bringing our mind back to the breath, and acknowledging and releasing the sensations and thoughts that may arise during this process, without judgement.
Releasing your thoughts and the tension that manifests with them can seem impossible at times, especially when trying not to judge ourselves. Newsflash! Judgements are normal, and having them does not make you a failure at mindfulness or meditation. However, it is possible to release those judgments while meditating, and doesn’t always need to be done at home or on a cushion or in a controlled space. If sitting down on a rock and closing your eyes for 5 minutes to focus on your breath and body while on your next hike is what works for you, and is when you feel you can best practice showing yourself the most compassion and kindness, then maybe take a moment to meditate. If you find yourself most able to focus on your breath while walking along the trail, walking meditation might be the best way for you to practice.
Photo by Holly Mandarich
The point is, there’s no right answer. However, there are so many ways to practice kindness and compassion to yourself while in outdoor spaces. Taking your meditation and mindfulness practices outside and recognizing when you are engaging in mindful moments in the outdoors, can sometimes transform your experience of a hike, climb, walk, sledding experience, ski, or any other outdoor activity you like to do. It can allow you to engage with yourself, your friends, and your surroundings more fully and might even extend into other areas of your life without you ever realizing it.