I have just returned from a weekend teaching Mindfulness Level 1 – Being Present with Kristine and Christine. The course was held at Samye Ling. The theme was mindfulness in nature. Participants had the opportunity to practice outside for much of the day. Also, many of the practices involved contemplating and resting in nature and the elements.
Samye Ling is in the heart of a valley in Dumfriesshire, Scotland. It is a place where two rivers meet. It has an abundance of wildlife. In fact, it is so abundant and rich with trees, vast landscapes, mountains, fields, hedgerows and creatures, that it is hard to believe the current plight and demise of the planet, and its reported decline in wildlife species.
Whilst sitting on the riverbank I noticed how clear the river was. How it gently flowed and slid over rocks. If I closed my eyes I could well have been sitting beside a waterfall. Yet sometimes it paused and hesitated in slow, almost still pools. Sometimes it whirled in spirals before catching up with the main stream. It felt like it was alive. I could feel its subtle energy in my body gently flowing. I found I could use the sound of the water and the river as a support for my practice. As a place to rest my mind.
In the practices we became mindful of how the water flowing through the earth in our rivers, oceans, clouds and rain, has always been here and always will be. It’s the same water experienced by our ancestors and the same water that will remain for the lifetime of planet earth. I suddenly felt very anxious with the enormity of this fact. At the beginning of life on earth, the water was pure and clear as it recycled, metamorphosed, shapeshifted through salty seas, stormy clouds, snow, ice, rain, lakes and rivers. Yet for the last hundred years or so human beings have been polluting it with chemicals and plastics at an alarming rate.
Suddenly the peace of my meditation was disturbed by a feeling of unease in my belly. I noticed how I had grasped this passing thought and was wrestling with it. It impacted my body and my being as the thought became a concern, a worry and slight panic and shifted into a story. The story consumed my whole mind. Once I realised what was happening, I brought myself back to the sound of the river and rested my awareness there a while until the story dissolved and peace was restored. However, I noticed the thought was still there. Should I leave it alone or should I do something with it?
Sometimes in life there are things that happen that we have very little control over. Troubles that we have to accept. And yet, accepting the plight of the planet is quite a hard fact to accept, especially when I am unable to influence it personally. All I can do is be vigilant in bringing mindfulness into my daily life and be mindful of everything I personally discard in the water I use. I made a decision to join the Mindfulness Association weekend ‘Engaged Mindfulness’ where together as a group we can use mindfulness to determine compassionate action to benefit the world. I also made a resolution to spend more time in nature. Whenever I teach mindfulness, I notice the benefit it gives me too. It deepens my resolve and practice and always changes me in some way. This time the shift is around mindfulness in nature.
East Anglia University found that there are numerous health benefits from being in nature. These include significant reductions in blood pressure and stress. I notice that being mindful in nature makes me find stillness and expansion of my being into the interconnectedness of all things in any one precious moment of my life. It helps me to still my mind easier than if I practice indoors. Whilst conflict of thoughts may arise – the beauty of nature versus the plight of nature – these are just thoughts whilst in my practice. However I can take the insights which arise from the Level 3 Seeing Deeply practice and make choices in my daily life as to how I respond to these thoughts.
It seems the theme of the week is mindfulness in nature. Quite by chance, as if the theme was in the air, Kristine and Heather also wrote blogs about nature and concerns for our wonderful planet Earth. As well as a beautiful poem, Kristine’s blog contains a wonderful practice involving the four elements which you can try too. Heather shares her concerns for the amazing creatures on earth and how it is important to adhere to our values and have the freedom and courage to speak out about our feelings. I also noticed articles in the Mindful Magazine which relate to the mental health benefits of being in nature and also about our grief and love for the planet Earth.
Following the great feedback from the nature themed Mindfulness weekend, I am delighted that the nature theme will continue into the rest of the course.
Come practice with us outside in nature.
I invite you to practice mindfulness outside in nature at least once this week. Notice how you are feeling and how it affects your practice.
I’d love to know how you get on so please do share a comment below or write to me personally at firstname.lastname@example.org.
As Spring continues to unfold its wings of light and growth, I wish you to flourish in its beauty.
Twohig-Bennett, C. and Jones, A., 2018. The health benefits of the great outdoors: A systematic review and meta-analysis of greenspace exposure and health outcomes. Environmental research, 166, pp.628-637.