This week we will:
- Continue our mindfulness practice by connecting with the senses
- Keep nurturing our seeds (physical and metaphorical)
- Rediscover our hidden talents for exploring the world around us
- Experience the natural world using creativity
Review of Week 2
Last week we started to get in touch with our senses. This is a really strong and accessible element of nature connection so we will continue with it and extend the experience this week.
Reflecting on your experiences through the week, was it the same every time you stopped to listen? Did you try different times of the day or different locations (it could even be a different window from your home)? What did you notice? Did you maybe try facing in different directions (you can cup your hands behind your ears to make them more like a bat’s in order to really capture the sounds and see how it varies as you turn in different directions). Did you find that you noticed one particular type of sound more – perhaps it was the louder sounds or maybe you were more naturally drawn to that type of sound. Sometimes we notice man-made sounds more strongly at first, but if we soften to them, gradually we may find they fade to the background as we notice other things.
Did you find that you were judging the sounds at all and deciding which sounds you liked or disliked? Maybe you judged your own internal weather? How was it if you set the judgement and thoughts aside? One of the key ingredients of mindfulness that we try to adopt is non-judgement. If we are able to experience something without judging it, our experience of it can change. It can be challenging to do this with things that we might regard as extremely unpleasant, so it is worth practising with things that are mildly “bothersome” first – like background traffic noise perhaps. It is a really useful skill, because what people tend to find is that a lot of the discomfort is actually caused by our thoughts and judgements about things. As we soften to the experience and practice acceptance (another key mindfulness ingredient), it becomes easier to tolerate. I have written about an experience of this here
When we talk about acceptance, we are not necessarily talking about giving in. There is a choice. It might be that we choose to remove ourselves from the “unpleasant” stimulus. There are also times when we do not have the choice to remove ourselves from discomfort, but we do have a choice about how we relate to it and respond to it. We can choose not to fight or resist it. These practices are very much about learning to soften around that discomfort rather than fighting it – there is a saying that “what you resist persists.”
Mindful Practice for week 3
This practice combines mindfulness of the senses with the weather activity. As with previous practices, it is suitable to do from an open window.
As a teenager, I spent quite a lot of time helping out on farms. I clearly remember being utterly amazed by the ability of one of the people I worked with to accurately forecast the weather just by observing the clouds and by feel. At the time it seemed like magic, but in fact we have the ability to read the world around us in many ways that we have lost touch with. It is likely that people who invest lots of time outdoors are more connected with their senses and the patterns of nature. One of the wonderful things about building nature connection is that it puts you back in touch with your own “superpowers.”
The video for this practice is here
Written description of the practice: You can stand or sit but try to find a spot where you will be comfortable and uninterrupted for a few minutes. You might like to close your eyes or lower your gaze if you are in a place where this feels safe.
I always like to start out by taking two or three deep breaths, just to get my focus and signal my intention to do just this one activity and not get caught up thinking about other things.
Then I take a moment to feel the ground supporting my feet on the floor. I notice that I am here in this place, at this unique moment and I start to get a general sense of how it feels to be here right now – I ask “what do I notice in my direct experience (maybe certain sounds or a breeze – whatever happens to be there)?”
Next I start to tune in to the feeling on my skin – maybe I can feel the breeze, so I know how windy it is. I can notice the air temperature. I can also feel the humidity (does the air feel damp or dry)? I might also be able to sense the air pressure – sometimes we can feel a thunderstorm is approaching, for example.
We are practising a skill here, so we might find it hard at first to connect the feelings with the weather, but the first step is to bring an awareness to how it feels, so we can take some time here to notice the feelings on our skin without the analysis – how does our skin feel when it is warm, where on our bodies do we notice the wind the most? This exercise might also tell you whether you are appropriately dressed for the occasion!
If it is raining or snowing, this will be quite obvious and may dominate your senses, but you can sense it in more detail and see what this particular rain or snow feels like, what it sounds like, how warm or cold it is. Not all rain and not all snow is the same – we have different words like “drizzle” or “downpour.” So we can pay closer attention to the rain/snow and notice new things about it. What smells are present? The rain often brings out aromas we are unable to detect when it is dry, like petrichor, which is the smell of the earth after the first rain in a while. If it is snowing where you are, you might like to catch some on your hand and take a closer look (with your eyes open).
Listening to the sounds around us, we can become aware of the wind and how it travels – is it everywhere all at once or in different places at different times? How does it make itself known – is it rustling leaves on particular trees or maybe swinging a gate? What is telling you that the wind is blowing? Alternatively, the air may be still. How does that feel? This is a good time to check in with yourself – how does this weather make you feel? Maybe it feels oppressive or perhaps uplifting? Do you feel an urge to head for shelter? You could also notice what you are paying attention to? Are the answers coming from your thoughts or from your felt experience? It is good to just notice this – most of us will get caught up with how we think we should feel or thoughts about what might happen – this is natural. One of the aims of this practice is to try to connect a little more with the felt experience instead of our thoughts about what is or might be here.
Moving on to what you can see – if your eyes have been shut, you can open them and take in the sky – are there any clouds? What are they like? Are they moving? How fast and in what direction? Are there different layers and different types of cloud? What colour are they? Can you see what the weather is doing in the distance? Perhaps there are darker clouds or streaks of rain.
Now you have built up a picture of the weather as it is now, do you have a sense of what it might be like over the next hour? As we draw this practice to a close, it’s nice to reflect on how you feel in relation to the world around you – how connected you feel to your environment compared with the start of our practice.
Finally, how are your seeds or pot plant getting on? Are you still taking time to nurture and connect with them?
Suggested journal or Facebook share: You can jot down a few notes about the experience of this practice. What did you notice most strongly? Was it challenging to notice the weather or particular aspects of it? What senses did you use?
Activity for week 3: Getting creative
You have lots of options for this one. You are invited to draw, or paint something in nature or to write a poem about something in nature that inspires you. You might also take a photograph or even create a piece of music. You could also do a combination of these. With the photograph, it is important that you spend some time first observing what you are photographing in some detail and making a really conscious choice about the moment and view that you choose to capture. It doesn’t work so well if you are just directing the lens and then clicking, taking random shots.
Whatever activity you choose, it is not about creating something that is technically wonderful – it does not need to be a masterpiece. The value in this exercise is in the experience of creating it, in connecting with nature, using deep observation and allowing what you see (or hear, or feel, or smell etc) to inspire you. You are welcome to use a photo, a description in a book, a nature documentary, a pot plant or something from your imagination or memory – really anything that you are drawn to or, if you are struggling to sense that connection initially, I would recommend just making a start with something you find and seeing where it takes you – the connection often unfolds during the activity.
Suggested journal or Facebook share: It might be really nice to reflect on your finished piece and what you were focusing on – what your feelings were, what you were trying to capture and portray. Also, you may like to notice if there is any difference in the way that you were relating to nature compared with some of the other ways you have experienced.
In week 4 we will be putting what we have been practising so far all together and thinking about how to continue with nature connection after the course.