A Field Guide to Nature Meditation.

October 27, 2022

A Field Guide to Nature Meditation.

May 29, 2023

Despite our love of nature, more humans now live in cities than in the countryside for the first time in history. And we are quickly becoming an indoor species, often spending more than 95% of our days confined by four walls, glued to a two-dimensional screen.

We have traded wide open vistas, a vast sky for our ceiling and the grassy earth beneath our feet for an indoor existence that diminishes our senses, confines our sense of space and disconnects us from the wild and each other. And yet, we only have to step outdoors to discover an entirely different and infinitely more interesting universe of experience.

Recently while teaching a nature retreat in New Mexico I was reminded of the contrast of going outdoors and why it is so enriching for our heart and soul. On this particular day, I step outside of my isolated cottage in the woods at dawn. I leave behind the familiar and muted experience of being indoors. I move into the crisp morning air and feel a jolt of alertness as I sense the cold against my face. My attention quickens as I step barefoot on the spongy ground carpeted in pine needles. I realize how soft the forest floor is.

Suddenly I’m attuned to innumerable things I was oblivious of indoors. I’m acutely aware of all the faint sounds—whispers of the forest beginning to wake up and birds beginning their morning conversations. I recognize the subtle fragrance of the earth after the evening rain has moistened the soil. I begin to see infinite shades of green as light enters the forest canopy.

When I come across a small pond, I pause a while. The stillness of the water naturally draws me into a state of contemplation. I sense the quietude of the morning, the hush of the forest, the tranquility of stones that line the water’s edge. I feel invited into a natural meditation, attuned to the serenity of nature. I notice the same peacefulness arising within me. The notion of being a visitor in the forest vanishes as I begin to feel part of the forest, welcomed and connected.

I remember this is why I step outdoors as often as possible, to experience the beauty, serenity and joy of nature. It allows me to access a natural quality of meditation, a state I call “meditative awareness” or “natural presence,” where one is naturally attentive. It is a quality that is fully embodied, meaning I am inhabiting my physical experience, attuned to my senses, grounded and alert.

This is mindfulness in nature and it is at the heart of nature meditation. It is a quality of attention we can cultivate in any natural landscape. And with the right intention, it is accessible anytime we spend time outdoors.

My latest book, A Field Guide To Nature Meditation, is a manual on how to develop this innate quality of mindfulness and how to bring this receptive mode of attention to a wide variety of experience in nature. Doing so is a path for joy, beauty and wonder. In doing so, be prepared to be surprised, to have your body energized, to have your heart opened to love and your mind touched by wonder and illumination as you deepen in intimacy with the natural world.

Mark Coleman, M.A., is the Founder of Awake in the Wild and The Mindfulness Training Institute. Mark is an internationally-recognized meditation teacher who has guided students on five continents to find greater peace and fulfillment through nature-based mindfulness practice and retreats. The author of Awake in the Wild, Make Peace with your Mind, From Suffering to Peace and A Field Guide to Nature Meditation, Mark is also a consultant, coach poet, wilderness guide, and outdoor adventurer. He has been an MEA guest faculty member and is delighted in sharing his work with the MEA community.

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