Come to your Senses: Mindfulness in Nature

There is something calming but also energizing when you spend time in nature. It feels quiet yet there is so much going on between the plants, trees, fungi, birds, bugs and animals. Nothing in nature exists in isolation and everything is interconnected and interdependent. It creates a thriving ecosystem. Once you step into nature you start to feel the energy flow. It helps us feel more alive and connected to the natural rhythms of the world. We get to feel like explorers because nothing ever stays the same in nature.

Nature makes mindfulness easy. We pay more attention to our experiences in nature. We observe and focus on the here and now. It stops compulsive thinking and quiets a distracted state of mind. We get so busy with the mundane routine of life we can forget to feel the vitality available to us in each moment. Nature reminds us.

How do you practice mindfulness in nature?

You need to use your senses and pay attention to what surrounds you. It can be a nearby park, forest or your own garden. Just slow down, open up and tune in. Aim to use all five of your senses. Notice what you see, the sounds you hear, the smells, and remember to touch too. See how the beauty and symmetry affect you and how your awareness changes. Feel the ground beneath your feet and connect as if there were no separation. Observe without attaching labels or judgments to what you are experiencing.

Being in nature facilitates mindfulness because nature is experiential. You look up and see a Blue Jay perched on a branch in the sunlight. You watch it closely in real time. It keeps your awareness in the moment. With practice your sensitivity gets stronger. The more you tune in to your experience the more you receive nature’s gifts of restoration and balance. And the more time you spend in nature the easier it becomes to be mindful.

By breathing deeply around trees, moving slowly, seeing the colors and patterns on the leaves and bark, you are present, and eventually, the stillness and power of nature begin to work their magic. There is less thinking, ruminating or worrying and more feeling, seeing, hearing and breathing. You forget your problems for a while. You may notice things in nature you would normally overlook, like a blossoming flower or delicate bird close up; seeing it all with a sense of wonder. Everything is alive and you start to feel it. It deepens your connection with all living things as you see beyond yourself.

When you are open to the life force buzzing around in nature, it reminds you of your own life force. It nudges you to reconnect with the deeper part of yourself. Nature’s stillness and presence often ignites our own sense of presence. We may even experience a sense of inner peace and spirituality that humankind has always found in the natural world.

Scientists in Japan have found that forest bathing (shinrin yoko) is so healing it became a part of their National Health Program. Mindful, quiet time spent in the forest atmosphere can lower high blood pressure and cortisol levels, improve concentration and memory while boosting creativity. Even spending five minutes being mindful in nature has health benefits. It feels like a quick mental detox or mini vacation. We focus better afterwards, productivity improves and our ability to be patient is renewed. The soothing sounds, vibrant colors and earthy aromas found in nature all play their part. Separating from our electronic devices for a while helps too. Either way, mindfulness in nature will leave you feeling energized, relaxed and more centered. It may even feel like a mildly psychedelic experience once you get good at it.