“The best and shortest road towards knowledge of truth is Nature.”
— Ancient Egyptian Proverb
“Unlike our mind, our body and senses are always in the present. Being present in nature makes it much easier for us to inhabit our body and the realm of the senses. Unlike our temperature-controlled houses, the natural world entices our senses to wake up. When we step outdoors, our skin receptors enliven as we feel subtleties of temperature and breeze. Our hearing becomes sharper as we listen to nuances of birdsong, silence, and the rustling of leaves in a forest. Most of all, our eyes become captivated by the beauty, texture, and sheer diversity of color, shape, and form,” says Mark Coleman, a psychotherapist, life coach, Buddhist meditation practitioner, and author of Awake in the Wild: Mindfulness in Nature as a Path of Self-Discovery. By being present in nature, more so practicing meditation in its presence, the more we can be a part of our surroundings, drink from the well of its beauty, and bring positive change into the world.
“Nature and Me” is a Sharing Nature wellness activity by Joseph Cornell, whose teachings have been used by Boy Scouts of America, the American Camping Association, and the National Audubon Society. Its practice allows a deepening practice of mindfulness. Cultivating a meditative practice outdoors can heighten sensitivity, bringing about a sense of wonder, beauty, and connection. Practice in wilderness, a garden, and even a city park!
Nature and Me:
Find a captivating spot outdoors, such as a flower-filled meadow or a forest glade. Sit down (or remain standing) and rest both hands, palm down, lightly on the thighs.
During this exercise you’re going to look for natural phenomena that capture your attention: for example, the texture of a tree’s bark, a field of flowers waving in the wind, or a bird calling deep in the forest. Don’t think about what you see or notice; just let your awareness flow from one observation to another.
Each time you see something, gently press a fingertip on your thigh to note the observation. Counting this way helps keep your concentration fully focused on your observation. Touching the leg also helps you feel that everything you see is united with you.
Use the ten fingertips on both hands to count your observations in batches of ten. Start with the left hand’s little fingertip and count across to your right hand, ending with its little finger. Go across as many times as you like. Two to three times (20 to 30 observations) work well.
Another way to play Nature and Me is to focus on one object like a tree or boulder that has many interesting features. With each observation, you will discover more and more detail about your subject: perhaps noticing its silhouette or shape, its color and texture, its immediate environment. The suggested number of observations for this version is fifteen to twenty. Children and adults who are more scientifically inclined usually prefer this second version of Nature and Me.