Today’s blog post comes from environmentalist Corina Brdar. When Corina is not working at Ontario Parks, she is actively involved in the growing mindfulness and nature journaling community.
Our final moment of mindfulness in nature took you through a simple 10-minute exercise to pay attention by looking, listening and feeling. This month we invite you to immerse yourself a little deeper listening to the sounds of spring.
You can try this basic mindfulness exercise the next time you are alone outdoors in a place where you feel comfortable.
Open your ears to the world around you.
All you need to do is sit still for three or five minutes.
Close your eyes or look down at the floor or another neutral space. Focus on listening.
There is no need to strive: there is no goal to achieve. You are simply letting the sounds come to you and your consciousness recognize them.
Listen a little closer
At first, natural sounds may not be obvious.
This time of year nature is so active that you will eventually detect its sounds even if you are near a busy intersection.
There are the shrill chirps of the robins, the drops of water running down the eaves, the rustle of the breeze, and the chirps and gushes of the starlings.
Nature is waking up and has a lot to say!
Everything in nature fills with energy in spring as it prepares for the season of plenty. As your brain begins to relax, you will become aware of the entire palette of sounds, not just the loud or distracting ones.
Right below your ears
What sounds surround you in your daily life that you have never noticed?
When trying this, you may be disturbed by sounds outside of nature, such as traffic or machinery.
The challenge is to let all the sounds come and go without forming strong opinions about them.
It can be helpful to imagine yourself in the reception line at a wedding, or playing a team sport after a game, or as a cashier checking out groceries. You acknowledge each wedding guest/hockey player/cereal box/sound as they pass, without latching onto any of them for a long, intense connection.
You’ll know you’ve lost your mind when you think you haven’t “heard” anything for a few minutes. When the mind gets caught up in thoughts, the ears seem to go into sleep mode.
If you realize it has happened to you, congratulate yourself!
You have reached a milestone as a mindfulness practitioner: you have managed to realize that you have stopped paying attention to the present moment.
Perfect! Now you can resume your attention.
Find different soundscapes
If you are lucky enough to find yourself in a place where the sounds of nature are obvious or omnipresent, you can try this another way.
Maybe you live near a swamp, field, or stand of trees where frogs, toads, or birds are hard to ignore. Windstorms and spring rains are also good opportunities for mindfulness in nature.
Instead of giving these sounds a passing note (“ooh, that’s cute… where did I put my phone?”), you can choose to pause your day and pay attention to them.
When you hear a gentle rain hitting your window, try sitting for three minutes and letting the drops become your focus.
If a chorus of toads serenade you on your evening walk, stop on the side of the road and observe their voices individually and in unison.
You might get bored after 15 seconds.
Listen a little longer anyway, see what happens.
A task: listen
You may be tempted to try to figure out who or what is making the sounds you hear. We definitely encourage you to learn about animal sounds as a way to appreciate nature.
In fact, there are important community science projects in parks that require volunteers to deliberately listen to birds or amphibians for set periods of time in specific locations.
But that’s not what this blog post is about!
If you are curious to know who is making the sound, tell yourself that you can find out later. Because at this point, does it really matter? Can you let your brain take a short break from needing to know?
For the experienced
If you already practice, you may enjoy taking your practice to your balcony, open window or outdoor location.
Are you easily distracted by unfamiliar sounds?
A new challenge to deepen your practice.
My local blue jays, as smart as they are, seem to know that when I’m sitting outside with my eyes closed it’s time for karaoke.
Me on a good day (that is, once): “Ah, ears detect sounds. “I am receiving these sounds neutrally.”
Me most days: “…what are they doing why are there so many mares in my head this is ridiculous they do it for a purpose I know maybe just look for a second…”
Thank you nature for the infinite practice opportunities.