Bringing our Awareness Back to Nature

Rebecca Green

Experiencing mindfulness in the meadows.

Last weekend, something special happened at Trumpington Meadows nature reserve.

Working with Claire Thompson, author of Mindfulness and the Natural World and The Art of Mindful Birdwatching (www.mindfulness-of-nature.com), I helped organise two taster sessions in preparation for our upcoming new 5 week mindfulness course, “Bringing our Awareness Back to Nature”.

What is Mindfulness, you might ask? Before I met Claire I was asking the same question, and I was unsure of the answer – I have done plenty of meditation in my time, but often inside a studio. I thought perhaps mindfulness would help me be more present in the moment and think less about the “what-ifs” of the future and past. I felt like a nature reserve was the perfect place to practice mindfulness and meditation, and I was excited to find out more and to add my experience and knowledge of being out in nature to Claire’s experience and knowledge. 

Mindfulness

Come Saturday a brave group of attendees joined us on a slightly cold and windy morning to discover more, and Claire was quick to tell us that any of our preconceptions of mindfulness should be left at the door so we could approach the sessions with an open mind. She explained that, in our Western culture we tend to give much importance to the thinking mind, and in doing so we miss out on the range of our human experience of ‘aliveness’ - if we don’t pay equal attention to all the other parts of our moment-to-moment experience (sights, sounds, scents, touch, emotions, body sensation etc).

To help us explore this, we did some meditation – sometimes quietly just experiencing the reserve around us, sometimes guided by Claire’s relaxing voice. We took a mindful walk in the woods and were overwhelmed by the spring activity we found there when we actually paid full attention – looking at all those green colours of spring, listening to the sound of birdsong.

We then were asked to make a sensory map visually representing the soundscape around us in the woodland. And finally we finished the session with a thought-provoking discussion exploring our innate bond with the natural world and a restful, grounding guided meditation where we lay down which ended with a beautiful poem by Mary Oliver.

Mindfulness is about aliveness

I left the session feeling enlivened, relaxed and with a new, much richer appreciation of the natural world around me.

In Claire’s words: “Mindfulness is about aliveness. It’s about welcoming into our awareness the infinite different aspects of our experiences of being alive - within ourselves and around us - without judgement, with a gentle, compassionate hold wherever possible. It’s about remembering how to let it all in - the way we perhaps did when we were children. It’s about connection and belonging - bringing our awareness back our two natural homes - our body and the rest of the natural world around us on the planet.”

Claire believes that our disconnection from nature within ourselves and around us is the root cause of so many of the physical, mental and global well-being issues we are facing in our modern world today. To her, the first step to healing this disconnection is to “Bring Our Awareness Back to Nature”.

 

Wild Geese  by Mary Oliver

You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting—
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.