Nature Meditation: Tune Into Your Senses
Ever wondered how to get more out of your time in nature? This post will provide tips for using your senses to meditate and connect more deeply to the natural world.
Though hiking and other nature sports have become quite popular, you may still find yourself feeling like something is missing. Maybe you’ve hiked to a picturesque waterfall, taken the required selfie, but as you drove home, you felt that you’ve missed some essential element.
The Need for Nature Connection
Naturalist Jon Young, who founded Wilderness Awareness School, would probably say that what you’re missing is connection. Your outdoor activities are not affecting you in a deep way because you experience no communication between that place and your inner self.
If that’s the case, don’t feel bad. For modern people, disconnection has become a normal state. Most of us spend so much time sitting indoors and staring at screens that it’s no wonder we find ourselves out of touch with the natural world.
So, how do you get nature connection?
A sensory meditation is a great entry point to connecting to nature. You can use the following meditative exercise to deepen your experience of nature, or to simply quell anxiety in any situation.
Wait. I’m not religious. Can I still meditate?
Yes! Though many religions incorporate meditation, the practice need not be connected to a specific religion. Meditation is simply a tool for focusing the mind and relaxing the body.
By starting a meditation practice, you can learn to relax more deeply, concentrate for longer periods, or relieve anxiety.
What is a sensory meditation?
Many meditations begin with sitting and counting the breath, which is a useful practice but can be difficult for a beginner. Our active minds crave stimulation, and though a traditional meditative practice can quiet your mind, it takes time to cultivate.
A sensory meditation is more active, as it combines a sitting meditation with a systematic process of tuning into each of your five senses.
Since you’ll be doing a nature meditation, this post will focus on Jon Young’s suggested sense meditation, which uses animals to help the reader visualize each sense.
How to Do a Sense Meditation
Step 1: Find a quiet place to sit. Then spend a few minutes breathing to relax.
Find a place that you can sit for about 20 minutes. You want a spot outside, but it doesn’t have to be postcard material. In fact, the best spot will be somewhere convenient.
Don’t overlook your back porch or back yard just because they are familiar.
Once you have found your sit spot, take a few minutes to get comfortable and relax. Our modern lives are hectic and fast-paced, but the natural world moves at a much slower pace. Take some time to slow down before moving onto Step 2.
Step 2: Owl Eyes (Sight)
We’ve all noticed the large eyes of an owl, so to get the most out of your sight, try embodying the owl and pretending you have powerful eyes that have outgrown their sockets.
To practice Owl Eyes, pick a spot in front of you to be your focal point. You will continue to look at that spot as you slowly become aware of your wider field of vision.
According to Wilderness Awareness School, you should notice that you “can see the ground, the sky, and that spot all at the same time using your peripheral vision.”
If that sounds like a lot, just keep it simple. Pick one spot to look at while you soften your vision. In time, your periphery will become much clearer.
Step 3: Deer Ears (Hearing)
If you’ve ever walked up on a deer, you’ve probably noticed how they’ll freeze and move their ears to identify danger. To get in touch with your hearing, embody the deer’s behavior.
Close your eyes and pay attention to your hearing. Imagine yourself at the center of a circle and send your attention in all directions. Like the deer, you are attempting to pick up the tiniest sounds on all sides of you.
When you have tuned into your hearing, slowly open your eyes, and slip back into Owl Eyes.
Step 4: Dog Nose (Smell and Taste)
There’s a reason many dogs travel with their nose close to the earth. Smell can be a powerful sense for humans as well, though we tend not to notice scent unless it’s overwhelming.
To try Dog Nose, raise your nose and turn in each direction to pick up different scents. If you really want to amplify your scent detection, take short quick sniffs, the same way a dog would if he scented something interesting.
Smell is closely associated with taste, so as you sniff, be aware of the sensations in your mouth. What does your tongue feel like? What taste do these smells evoke?
Once you’ve focused on smell, tune back into your hearing and seeing.
Step 5: Racoon Body (Touch)
Our last step is to gain bodily awareness, and our model is the raccoon. If you ever watch a raccoon investigate food, it tends to run its hands over every aspect of the food, as if its body is sending far more information than we could glean just from watching him.
As you sit at your spot, adopt a Raccoon Body mindset, and send your attention to each part of your body. How does it feel? Where are your clothes touching? Can your skin sense the wind’s direction? Could you relax more fully?
As with the other senses, once you have developed Raccoon Body, add in each of the other senses. Now you have a fully functional sensory life, and with practice, you can activate these senses much more quickly and even while walking around or paddling down a river or up a lake.
Give it a try!