“Take your problems to the woods!”Phil McKnight, Mindfulness Coach
This is a guest post by Philip McKnight a Baltimore, Maryland based mindfulness coach, musician and adventurer.
This wisdom really asks me to come home to who I really am. Since we come from and are part of nature, this return to the forest is real homecoming. When we enter natural spaces, such as forests, beaches and fields, nature is the dominant force. When this happens, our bodies naturally begin the healing process on an imperceptible level. We may feel spiritually buoyed, psychologically cleansed and physically alert. Scientific research is repeatedly proving that natural settings have calming effects on the body and mind. All it takes to begin is to notice and watch the organic happenings in these natural spaces.
Sometimes when people hear the word “nature” they imagine pristine wild spaces that are “out there”. City dwellers or those who live in over-developed suburbs may be more likely to feel this way. You couldn’t be further from the truth! Everywhere, whether it is on your porch or in a small park or by a tiny stream, nature exists. Nature is inviting you to find her in landscaped parks or abandoned lots. Ready for you to notice. This homecoming to nature can facilitate a homecoming within ourselves.
For some of us who have a deep and friendly relationship with nature, this homecoming may be immediate and primal. We know how to embrace and be embraced by the natural world. For others, it may be more strained and unfamiliar.
Here are 2 techniques you can use to restore your relationship to nature and invite healing.
1. Use your five senses and take a “nature bath”.
Reality, in large part, exists due to what we can perceive through our touch, sight, smell, hearing and taste. In modern society we are often bombarded with sensual triggers and have learned to ignore our senses.
That’s the opposite of what you want to do in nature.
How to do it:
1. Wherever you are, start by closing your eyes. Sight can often dominate and hinder our ability to take in information from our other senses.
2. Become curious about what you can hear, feel and smell. You may begin to notice the sound of trees creaking in the wind. You might feel a cool breeze engulf your skin. You might smell the earthy aroma of rotting leaves.
4.Once you feel ready, open your eyes and allow the space to flood your sight. With your eyes open, carefully scan the area. What colors do you notice? What natural creatures are present? What textures call to you?
5.When you are ready, take 5 deep breaths and turn your attention inward to see if you feel any different from how you felt prior to doing the nature bath. Do you feel a crisp calmness in your chest? Does your mind feel more calm and still? Does your body feel lighter and more free? Try to carry and notice these feelings as you enter back into your daily routine.
2. Open-eyed nature meditation.
Some spaces are so delicious to the eyes that they call for a “meditative feast”!
How to do it:
1. Find a space where you feel called too. It doesn’t have to make sense why you feel pulled in one area versus another. By listening to this gut feeling, you learning to trust your intuitive self which is the part of you that processes and communicates in symbols.
2.Either sit in a comfortable position or stand.
3. In your location, choose to look at one area with a soft open gaze (not staring) or you can scan the area like a vacillating fan on low.
4.As you look, practice feeling your body breathing as you notice what is happening in the natural space. What can you hear, smell, see, feel and even taste?
5. Do this for as long as you’d like, 5 minutes is a great place to start for a beginner.
6. End by turning your attention inward. How does your body feel? How does your mind feel?
7. If you feel comfortable, thank the space and go about your day.
In nature, we may begin to notice the never-ending waterfall of thoughts that crash through our minds. We might notice the passing clouds of emotions that drift in and out. Are we the watcher of our inner and outer states of being or are we the passing and fleeting thoughts that occupy our mind and bodies?
I invite you to take this question to the forest and see what’s true for you.
When I heard a friend say take your problem to the forest, it was like hearing something I already knew but had never heard named out loud. In these times of disconnection, loneliness, fear, and anger, we are invited to come home to what really matters. The peace that nature can show us may help us realize we are not alone, but rather interconnected with all beings, depending on them, and them dependent on us.
I invite you to join me in taking your problem to the forest!
Phillip McKnight is a mindfulness facilitator in the greater Baltimore area. He hopes to help himself and those he interacts with awaken to their interconnection with all beings in this one world in this one life through awareness of the present moment.
If you are in the area, check out Phil’s courses on Mindfulness Coaching!