Try this: Practicing mindfulness in nature


Walking meditation is a traditional practice and is perhaps best done in nature. In essence, walking meditation involves paying full attention to each step. If it's safe to, you might choose to go barefoot. It's a good idea to set an end point for your walk in advance, say about 12 to 15 metres away. You might decide to walk to a certain tree or lay a simple marker on the ground. Walking mediation on a beach is lovely, and if it has a breakwater you can use that as your end point.

When you're ready to begin, stand comfortably with your eyes open. Look at the ground a few metres away from you with a relaxed gaze. Become aware of how you're standing. Check that your weight is evening distributed and sense the pressure of the ground on the soles of your feet. Start walking slowly, paying attention to the changing sensations. It can feel a bit odd at first, so watch for any tension. Try to stay relaxed. If you find you're getting caught up in thinking, just bring your awareness back to the sensations in your feet. Everyone gets lost in thought sometimes, so just relax and don't give yourself a hard time about it!

Feel each foot touching the ground. If it helps, silently say 'touching' with each step. Be aware of each phase of walking; lifting your foot, moving it forward, placing it on the ground. Find a pace that's comfortable for you. Notice what's around you but try to keep your focus on the sensations of walking. Stop when you reach your marker. Bring your attention your breath, feel both feet on the ground and if you'd like, have a stretch.

Tree at Hembury Fort, Devon


In the Western tradition, there are four elements: Air, Fire, Water and Earth. In this mediation you contemplate these elements, both within your body and all around. Each breath is drawn into your lungs for a moment and then released to your surroundings. Every inhale and every exhale can serve as a reminder that you're in intimate relationship with your surroundings. You're breathing in oxygen released from plants - their respiration is your respiration: Your life is part of the natural flow. The chill cold of a Winters day, the touch of a breeze or the warmth of the Sun reveals that your skin connects you to the outside world, rather than separates you from it. You take in food and water, and it passes thorough you. You body has grown from the Earth and is ultimately nourished by the Sun.
This practice can help to break down the distinction between 'you' and 'nature' by bringing a deeper awareness that everything comes from the same elemental components.

Open awareness

Broadly speaking, there are two forms of meditation; focused attention and open awareness. The Walking and Elements meditations use focused attention, but opening to whatever comes into your awareness is equally valuable. This kind of open awareness meditation can be particularly rewarding in nature. If mediation is new to you, you're probably better off starting with focused attention. Typically, we move into open awareness after a short period of focused attention, like a breath meditation. I suggest you practise open awareness meditation indoors before trying it in nature: There can be a lot of sensory input outdoors and it can be too much if you're a beginner. But don't let me put you off! Open awareness meditation in nature is probably my personal favourite.

Seascape at Exmouth

Gratitude meditation

In the evening, write a list of five things in nature that you noticed that day and feel grateful for. Perhaps it was the warm Sun, a blue sky, or the crisp cold of the morning; autumn leaves, sparkling ice or the wind in the trees. It might be the apple you enjoyed at lunchtime, the cool water you drank or simply the air that you're breathing. As you make your list, bring appreciative thoughts to mind. You might try something like: "I appreciated the blue sky, I really appreciated the beautiful autumn leaves, I am grateful for the air I am breathing that keeps me alive". Notice how bringing these things to mind makes you feel. Notice any changes in your body.

Mindbody Focusing (AKA 'Experiential Focusing') isn't a mindfulness practice, but is closely related. If you're familiar with Focusing, I recommend you try Focusing in nature.

There are many other ways to practice mindfulness in nature. Sign up for my monthly email for suggestions and support.