The Book of Nature Connection is filled with fun sensory activities for all ages that promote mindfulness and nature connection. The book includes activities grouped by the main senses- hearing, sight, smell, touch, and taste. This powerful learning tool kit is ideal for educators, camp and youth leaders, caregivers and parents, and anyone looking to reconnect with nature. Today, we share an excerpt from the book that looks at mindfulness and nature and gives some hints on practicing mindfulness while in nature.
Excerpt from the Book
Mindfulness is the deliberate practice of tuning into your feelings and what your body is experiencing as you connect to the world around you. It means turning off your thoughts and focusing on the here and now. For example, standing in a pool of sunlight and feeling the sensation of the sun’s rays against your face. You might pay attention to the wind brushing against your cheek and the faint scent of pine in the air. You might imagine the earth pulsing with life beneath your feet. It is about being fully present and open to this moment and all the gifts that this moment brings. The natural world is a place of constant change, of resiliency and renewal. By opening up all your senses and allowing the natural world to wash over you, you feel refreshed and awakened. The clutter and stress of all the things your mind is telling you that you need to do and accomplish in your daily life begins to recede. You feel a sense of rootedness to something larger than yourself. The act of drawing yourself out of yourself and into the world around you helps you to cultivate and enhance empathy.
Studies have shown that our brains function differently while in nature. We relax more, and this increases alpha wave activity that helps us to feel calmer. Meanwhile, activity in our frontal lobe, the part that is responsible for executive function and analytic thought, decreases. We feel less stress, calmer, and more at peace.
Here are some hints for practicing mindfulness in nature:
- Find a quiet spot in a place that is as natural as you can access. If you live in a large city, go to a nearby park. If you are able to get away from the sounds of city life, so much better.
- Stand, sit, or even lie down.
- Start by tuning into the sounds you can hear. If thoughts come rushing over you, try to turn them off and focus on the sensations of this time and this place.
- Breathe slowly in through your nose and gently exhale through your mouth or nose. Smell the air. Can you detect a hint of earthiness, of moisture in the air, the scent of trees and leaves?
- Gently caress the earth, the grass, a stick, or leaves. Concentrate on the sensation that this makes on the tips of your fingers. What is its texture? Rub some soil between your fingers. Feel its coolness and freshness.
- Look around and attend to the various colors. What hues do you notice? How many shades of green, gray, brown can you observe? Look up, notice the color of sky; is it the same shade of blue, white, or gray? Watch clouds and the textures, patterns, and shapes they make.
- You can practice mindfulness even as you walk. While walking, focus on the sounds your feet make as you move. Practice all around watching, not just looking at your feet. Try widening your field of vision. Feel the sensation of your body balancing as you move across different terrains. Focus on the sounds around you. Where are they coming from? Notice the very slight temperature change as you move from forest to field or from a sun-washed area to shade.
- It is a wonderful law of physics that no two people can occupy the same space at the same time. You are the only one to be in this space, at this time. Your view of the world is completely unique. Celebrate this beautiful perspective that you and only you are privileged to be part of.
- A word of caution, in the book we have suggested activities that call for the mindful harvesting of small bits of nature. Be aware that in Parks and Conservation Areas, harvesting from nature is prohibited. If this isn’t your land, always ask permission before you take anything from the natural world. On your own land, you might even ask the plant itself for permission.
Author Jacob Rodenburg
Jacob Rodenburg, nature sommelier, is an award-winning educator, executive director of Camp Kawartha, a summer camp and outdoor education center, and instructor in environmental education at Trent University. He has taught more than 100,000 students and is co-author of The Big Book of Nature Activities. Jacob lives in Peterborough, Ontario.