I turned the corner at the Iowa Arts Festival, and saw picture after picture of nature: raw, beautiful, and unique. “Oh, look at how cool these are,” I said to my son.
“What’s so cool?” asked a voice behind the picture. I looked, and the artist peeked out from behind the tent wall. “Your work,” I said, “It’s mindfulness in action.” She looked at me quizzically, and then I went on, “It’s all about noticing the beauty in the moment. It’s noticing things on a very small scale. Things that we usually miss.” She smiled and replied, “I always tell kids just to stop and look. I’m a big nature person, and there is cool stuff there if you look.” She then went on to describe her work, and how she photographs the “amazing world of nature” with a macro lens on her camera. Using her specialized equipment, she captures nature on a new level.
Mindfulness is something I write about often. Mostly, because it is both life-changing and life-affirming. Mindfulness is the practice of noticing and participating in the present moment, rather than looking ahead to things that could happen, or looking back at things that have already happened. All of us have struggles, all of us have pain, and all of us have things that we worry will go wrong. But, as we learn to practice noticing the moment, we become aware of the beauty, the joy, and gifts that are with us every second of everyday. Over time, and with practice, we adapt a mindset where we are freed from impending doom, and notice more joy, goodness, and beauty.
Our goal-oriented mindset is deeply ingrained and persistent. But, nature can provide us with gentle reminders, to explore our lives as they unfold, in the present. As a result, we are less eager to run away from where we are, and we can find contentment and peace. Mindfulness hones our curiosity and inquisitiveness. And nature is the perfect place to do develop these skills.
So what are some ways to use nature to hone our mindfulness skills?
Make time, daily if you can, to just “be” outside. If it is easier for you to walk, walk. If it is easier for you to sit, sit. But, spend time outside somewhere that you an appreciate or find beauty. It may be in your backyard, in a park, or in your garden. Find a place that moves you, and visit it often. When we lived in Northern Minnesota, I would run along the Mississippi River every morning. When I ran, I would notice the sunrise, the light, the steam rising from the water. I could hear the birds chirping. It was always a part of the day that I looked forward to. It wasn’t the running necessarily, but being out in nature, and noticing the simple beauties that were present.
Use your senses.
Try to involve as many senses as you can in the process. Notice the feeling of grass under your feet (one of my favorites), or the softness of a breeze on your face. Listen to the birds, the frogs, or the leaves as the wind rustles through them. Watch for the colors, or the intricacies in the visual patterns that you see. Smell the foliage, water, or scents in your yard. Taste fruit from your tree or garden. These are all forms of enjoying the gift of nature.
Turn off your phone or your music for a few minutes. Take time for some deep breaths. Allow nature to unfold before you, and experience its presence.
Mindfulness-noticing events in a warm, open, and inquisitive manner-develops the courage to meet our lives with genuine interest. It doesn’t mean there’s no discomfort or difficulty. It means we’re willing to experience – and even tolerate – these feelings. As a result, we also experience the enchantment of looking, listening, tasting, touching, feeling, and learning from our environment. We may not know all the answers, but we can have a broader and more enjoyable perspective.
Thank you, Cindy Skeie, for sharing your work. Please visit her site to see more of her talent.
Author: Cindy Anderson
Dr. Anderson is a Board Certified Clinical Child Psychologist. She also owns Hope Springs Behavioral Consultants. Dr. Anderson has achieved a high degree of specialization in working with children and families. She holds a Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology and completed APA Accredited internship and postdoctoral training in Clinical Child and Pediatric Psychology. She prides herself as a life-long student and tries to learn something new every day.
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