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.
It seems like the term “mindfulness” is popping up everywhere in our lives these days. However, it can be a complicated concept to try out in daily life. An easy place to try this is in nature.
At the very least, spending some mindful time in nature can allow your busy brain a moment to rest and your nervous system a chance to pause. It can also bring new richness to your outdoor experiences.
So what is mindfulness and how is it “done” in nature?
Mindfulness is about making a deliberate decision to pay attention, with curiosity rather than judgment.
The next time you are in one of our parks or other natural spaces, or even looking out the window at falling snow, bare tree branches, or a bird feeder, take 10 minutes to be still.
Find a place where you can feel comfortable and not be disturbed during this short time.
Do you see?
Look closer at the colors, shapes and patterns.
Does the light falling on the branches cast shadows or create lights? Is a cardinal a uniform shade of red or does it have hints of gray, coral or burgundy? Are the clouds in the sky changing as you watch? Can you follow the trail of a snowflake as it falls?
The more you look, the more you will see.
Curiosity about the trial
Now that you’re looking closely, you can notice how you react to what you see. This is the “non-judgmental” part of mindfulness.
Maybe the clouds in the sky trigger an emotion in you, or a worry that you need to get back in your car and drive home before it snows. Unless a storm is imminent, there is nothing you should do at this time.
Try to let your thoughts and feelings about what you’re seeing come and go without getting caught up in them.
Nobody said this would be easy! It’s okay, no one marks your performance here.
Curiosity, not judgment.
What do you hear?
If you feel safe and comfortable where you are, try closing your eyes. Listen to the sounds around you.
This time of year in our parks you may hear the soft “bee” of chickadees, the echo of voices of people walking further up the trail, the crash of waves against rocks, or the tinkling silent of water like snow. melts
It’s interesting how many different sounds your ear can detect when you start paying attention. Resist that immediate urge to identify the sounds, if you can. It doesn’t really matter what is making the sound.
What matters at this point is the nature of the sound itself: its pattern, its pitch, its volume. Think of sounds as waves of energy hitting your eardrums, rather than pieces of information to interpret.
What do you feel?
What happens to the feelings in your body? Can you feel the soles of your feet pressing into your boots or the comfort of your hat on your head?
Once you start paying attention to these feelings, you’ll probably feel the urge to move, move, or scratch. See if you can let those feelings come and go. If you can’t, that’s okay too, but it’s an interesting experiment to try.
The beauty of mindfulness is that you don’t need to do anything with all of these observations. The point is to be there and notice them, that’s all.
To present yourself fully during these short 10 minutes of your life.
You don’t need to post this on social media and You definitely don’t have to evaluate how well you did.
It’s a small private gift just for you.
If you’ve tried meditation or another mindfulness practice, have you ever done it outdoors? You’ll be surprised how different it feels!