We move through life fast. Being rooted to the moment is when we pause, watch, listen and feel. We see, hear and notice more in nature and feel calmer and more positive. This blog is home to a series of moments just like that.
If you have read some of the posts on this blog, I hope you are now even more interested to have your own similar experiences in nature. But even though mindfulness is an oft used term and is practised by a growing number of people, it can be difficult to know where to start.
So here are some simple suggestions of activities you could have a go at yourself or with others. They are designed to help you ground your attention in the here and now, explore your senses and notice more of the ever active nature around you.
I have gathered these nine ideas from a mix of my own experience, as well as following the guidance of others, notably the work of Natural Change, Wilderness Foundation UK and a book by Paula Peeters ('Make a date with nature'). All have been shared and road-tested with groups I have facilitated since.
Let me know how you get on!
1. Contour drawing. Find a spot to sit or stand that captures your curiosity. Pick a starting point (a leaf, rock, tree, distant field etc) and draw every detail you see but without looking at the page and without taking your pen or pencil off the page. Instead keeping your eyes fixed on the object and see what you notice.
2. Flowing stream. Again, find a spot to sit or stand that captures your curiosity. Choose your first sentence and then write continuously for 5 minutes to see what you find. Ideally this will be about the place you are in and what you can see, hear, smell, feel or taste. But if your mind wanders that can be insightful too...
3. Question and answer. Have a conversation with a natural object - out loud or in your head. Ask questions and consider answers: how old are you? What are you called? How did you get here? Why are you that colour? And so on. Be non-judgemental, but simply curious in working through these questions. They will help you observe more.
4. Getting to know a tree. Find a partner for this exercise (it works well within groups) and a location with lots of different trees. One of you is blindfolded, while the other guides. Setting off from a shared starting point, the guide takes their blindfolded partner on a winding walk before choosing a tree. The blindfolded person then sets about getting to know that tree in all ways but sight. When ready, the guide leads their partner back to the starting point (again, a winding route is good). Then the blindfold is removed and that person has to find their tree. Then swap roles and do it again! Please be trusting and trustworthy with each other - be mindful of the obstacles that might hinder the blindfolded person in particular!
5. Slow walk. A simple but effective experience for groups. Start in a circle, take deep breaths together to build a calmness and establish silence. The leader leaves the circle and starts walking at a slow pace. One by one the others follow leaving 10-15 paces between them and the person in front. After a meandering path for a few minutes, the leader turns and pauses, and the group reforms the circle again. After a few moments of silence there, the leader walks off again at a slower pace. Again, reform, pause, then the leader leaves at an even slower pace. Reform, pause, silence broken, and then the group can discuss what they noticed along the way.
6. What you see. One for pairs. One leads first, the other follows a few steps behind. The leader finds a spot, scene or object that instinctively appeals to them and pauses. After a moment, the follower asks “what do you see?” The leader replies with whatever they see before them – literal or metaphorical, whatever comes to mind. The follower asks again, until it they get the sense there is nothing more to say. Then the follower asks “What does that tell you?”, again until this feels fully explored. Then, as a discussion starter, the follower asks “what did you get from this?” The pair can then swap and discuss between them how they found the experience.
7. Accidental poem. Find a spot by yourself. After some time to familiarise yourself with your surroundings, write down whatever words that come to mind (about your surroundings) over a period of around 5 mins. The words can be random and scattered. Then on your own or combined in pairs or threes, bring all your words together and try to weave sentences together from them. If you like, link all those sentences together into a poem or piece of prose.
8. Treasure hunt. Set off on your own slow walk. As well as enjoying your surroundings in any way you wish, your goal is to find something big, something small, something hard, something soft, something furry, prickly, rough, smooth, simple, complex, humble, proud, shy, bold, quiet, loud… or whatever properties you wish to set at the outset. If you are in a group, share what you have found at the end with each. Again, this gives you cause to be curious and observant.
9. Listening. Find a spot and listen carefully for a good five or so minutes. Try to distinguish as many different sounds as possible. Ask yourself: what are they? From which direction? Near or far? For a deeper experience, try this with your eyes closed and start with five slow, deep breaths. At the end of the five minutes (or so) open your eyes and write down all you heard. If in a group, share with each other.