This week we will:
Welcome to Week 3. I hope you’ve been able to give the practices and activities we’ve offered so far a little try and found, if not all, some of them useful in one way or another. As I’ve mentioned previously, there are no strict rules with the practices, they can be fairly easily adapted and you can take as much or as little time out with them as you like, even 5 minutes a day is beneficial, just to be still and to quiet the mind.
Before I introduce this weeks activities, I wanted to take a moment to suggest some additional ways that you can explore the mindfulness of breathing and walking meditation practices within a slightly more nature focused context. Attuning ourselves to our natural environments and re-establishing our deeper connections to the more than human world, is an integral part of our mindfulness practice, and has an important role to play in supporting our ongoing mental wellbeing.
One of the most significant reciprocal relationships we share in nature, is with that of the trees. Trees are vital to our very existence. They are quite literally the lungs of the earth, and for that alone it’s hugely important that we respect and honour our relationship to these earthly companions. Here are just a few of the benefits trees offer us:
We will discuss and practice Forest Bathing with greater depth at a later stage on the website, but for now I’d like to suggest next time you try your mindful breathing to find a tree you are drawn to and to sit with it a while. Or, if you prefer the walking meditation, to go to a wooded space (if close by) to walk amongst the trees and take some moments to reflect on our relationship to them, their unending offerings to us and the benefits we reap in return.
Sitting with a Tree
Walking amongst Trees
“We sat together the forest and I, merging into silence, until only the forest remained”
Mindfulness Practice 3 – ‘Mindfully Eating’
What you’ll need:
Mindful awareness can be applied to what can seem like the most insignificant of things in our day to day living. When we can increase our present moment awareness with these often overlooked activities, we begin to realise how much we can enhance our enjoyment in life and appreciate all the pleasures gifted to us in the ability to see, touch, taste, smell and hear. In this practice we’re going to ask you to give active attention to a piece of fruit. Eating and drinking is for most one of the more pleasurable of day to day activities that we undertake. We can be hurrying about our daily tasks but often look forward to sitting down to a nice meal or enjoying a cuppa at the end of the day. However, when we do finally sit down with our drink in our hand or dinner on our laps, our ‘monkey minds’ are often still running around keeping busy with our thoughts, or we’re wrapped up in what’s on the television or on our phones. With this in mind, we miss the simple pleasure in just sipping our tea or really tasting and experiencing our food.
“When was the last time you had a glass of water and really drank it?”
You might like to try this activity with others you live with, or suggest to a friend to join you via an online platform if you wanted to share in the experience. Otherwise, find yourself somewhere comfortable to sit where you won’t be disturbed for the next 5-10minutes. Ensure your phone is switched to silent and that there are no other obvious distractions within the immediate space. You only need to try this practice once, but are welcome to repeat it with other items of food or drink if you wish!
Have your piece of fruit ready to hand and take a few moments to tune into your breath and relax yourself. Now work your way slowly through the following instructions:
You’re invited to make some notes of your experience or share and exchange it verbally with whoever you chose to do the practice with. What might they have noticed or experienced that you perhaps didn’t? How many times in the past have you paid so much attention to eating, and was your experience transformed by the simple act of just focusing more?
We often place food and drink in our mouths without giving it a second thought, it goes in and just disappears, unnoticed. What normally happens to all that taste? Once you’re able to see the difference in paying attention to something seemingly insignificant, you begin to recognise the real cost of ‘inattention’ and the vast portions of your daily life that are effectively being ‘missed’ moment to moment.
Nature Connection Activity 3 – Exploring the more-than-human
Time: as long as you like!
What you’ll need:
In this activity we look at exploring the ‘more than human’ world, and channelling connections to our non-human companions. Forging relationships by spending the time to deepen our understanding of the natural world around us can not only widen our perspectives, but can also help us to feel less alone as we cultivate the knowledge that everything is interconnected, and coexists together as one. This is a great activity to have some fun with and yet can be profoundly insightful at the same time. It can cause us to look more deeply at ourselves, what inspires us, what resonates for us and what might the quiet voice within be speaking to us.
To start I’d like to invite you to see yourself in the form of an ‘apprentice’ who is setting out to explore a ‘being’ that is of particular interest to you. This could be in the form of anything from a bird to an animal, plant, tree, element such as rain or a particular landscape like mountains, rivers or forests. This is something that grabs you, that you are naturally drawn to, have always admired, enjoyed or even feared but perhaps never questioned why.
There will of course be many aspects within nature that draw us, but for now just start with one, preferably the first that comes into your head, as this will have been your most natural and instinctual response. Then you’re invited to begin your enquiry into this ‘being’. You can spend as much or as little time as you like investigating, you don’t have to explore all in one go, you could take days, weeks or months, go at your own pace and with what feels right. They may not say much at all to you, or they may open up a whole host of enquiries and questions that you want to explore further.
As an example to help start you off, my first ‘apprenticeship’ was with Raven (Corvis Corax). These are birds that have always fascinated me and that I’ve been drawn to, so some useful questions to begin with could be:
It’s helpful when enquiring to not allow too much logic and ego to cloud your creativity and instinctual responses. So for example, when I think of Raven he naturally represents the attributes of ‘courage, playfulness and boldness’. This however could be completely different to someone else. So its important to ‘go with your gut’ and to what speaks instinctively to you. Both our ancestors and many indigenous peoples of the world place great importance on the ‘more than human’ connections, respecting their landscapes, plants and animal kingdoms and working in tune with nature and her natural cycles and whatever ‘speaks’ to you in your heart is always a great path to follow. I hope you enjoy this and have some fun with it, this is again about encouraging the ‘child within’ and returning to a way of looking at the world with awe and wonder, rather than ego and logic!
Again, we hope you enjoy trying out the suggested activities and practices above and would welcome any feedback of your experiences taking part in the course. Please do drop us any comments in the comments section below.
When you are ready to move onto the final part of this course please click the link below: