I often think about my first mindfulness experience, long before that word—mindfulness—entered my vocabulary. I was eight or nine, and my dad told me to pick a cloud in the sky, and to just breathe, wait, and watch for it to disappear.
I’ve been returning to this practice in recent years with my own son, and reflecting on its power in a number of ways.
For one thing, it connects us immediately with the natural world, and allows us to simply appreciate its beauty. The beauty of nature inspires awe, which we know from the research boosts happiness, generosity, even compassion and connection. It also connects us with the natural rhythms of the world, allowing us to step out of clock time and into what I think of as earth time.
The power of nature to bring us immediately to the present must be primally wired into us.
The power of nature to bring us immediately to the present must be primally wired into us. In workshops I often ask people to share what mindfulness was to them before they ever heard that word, and the answers are astonishingly consistent. “Watching for shooting stars on a summer night,” “listening to the rain fall on a tent on a camping trip,” “gazing at the embers of a campfire,” “digging in my grandmother’s garden” and other sensory, nature-based experiences come up again and again.
So on Earth Day, honor nature by spending some time away from technology and in the majesty of what this earth offers. Look to nature for inspiration, see how you can connect with the natural world.
Two Mindfulness Practices to Help You Tune Into Nature on Earth Day—Or Any Day
Practice 1: Walk and Notice
Take a walk and notice the beauty that you see, a gratitude and appreciation practice that can elevate your mood.
Take the time to really look at your favorite tree, explore a park, and notice something new, a practice that will spark creativity.
Gaze at the shapes that nature has created, as well as spaces between them, reflecting on what the Japanese call “ma,” the “negative space” between forms that is just as important as the objects themselves.
And as you walk, notice what has changed and is changing as you pass the same spot. And don’t just walk, take some time to sit in nature. And as you sit, consider stepping out of clock time and connecting with nature’s time and rhythms.
Practice 2: Sit and Notice
Open your window, feel the fresh air, sit and listen to the sounds of nature.
Sit until the fog burns off…
Sit until the sun completely sets…
Sit until the rain ends… or begins….
Watch an animal, even an insect at work or play until it departs…
Sit until the puddle dries in the sun…
Sit and watch a shadow until it has crossed your path…
Sit until the birds finish their song…
If you can, sit beneath a tree until it lets go of a leaf and you see (or even hear) it fall to the ground.
If you can, sit at a lake and watch the surface until the wind shifts or stops…
Or simply sit until that cloud completely changes shape, and disappears or passes on the horizon….