Mindfulness of Nature

Why Mindfulness of Nature?

Last week was another busy week in the office. When I got home on Friday evening, my mind was racing. It was full of thoughts of what I hadn’t achieved, what more there was to do the following week, and a number of other frustrations from the previous few days. I felt tense and restless  – despite the fact that the week had ended and it was time to enjoy the week-end!

Sound familiar? I bet it does… I think this is what the average working week does to most of us…

Luckily, I had a week-end treat in store: a camping week-end with friends in the Yorkshire Dales National Park!

Yorkshire Dales

Rivers of the Yorkshire Dales

We spent the week-end walking in beautiful hills across landscapes of forests, meadows, heathland and fast-flowing rivers. We enjoyed simple things such as the soft sound of the breeze in the trees, the fresh smell of the country air, the crashing sound of water in the rivers, the feeling of endorphins flowing through our bodies as we walked, the swifts and swallows swooping above our heads and the simple pleasure of laughing and chatting with friends! My senses were engaged with the world around me.  I felt very alive.

On the Sunday, we made it up to one of the Park’s summits,  where we stopped to eat our lunch. After eating my cheese sandwich (which tasted amazing after 8 miles of walking!), I took a few minutes to contemplate the view and pay attention to what was going on in my mind and body.

The view from the summit: Yorkshire Dales National Park.

The view from the summit: Yorkshire Dales National Park.

It was extremely peaceful. All I could hear was a very gentle breeze. All I could see were hills, farms, roads and green fields dotted with sheep – extending for miles all around. I closed my eyes for a moment. I noticed my body was very relaxed. The restlessness had disappeared. I noticed the worried thoughts and frustrations from the week had evaporated. They even seemed irrelevant when actively bringing them to mind again. It was as if the fresh air and the hills around me had ‘filtered’ my thoughts to leave me only with those relating to the really important things in my life. My mind seemed now to be dwelling on my family, my friends, my good health, the very simple pleasure of just sitting there, alive, on the rocks – faced with such a beautiful landscape.

Spending time in nature had once again brought me that unique sense of contentment, calm, and happiness which I rarely find anywhere else!

This is why I wrote my first book, Mindfulness and the Natural World. This is why I am writing this blog.

Mindfulness-of-nature is an open invitation to everyone to ‘come back to life’. Through sharing personal anecdotes, reflections on mindfulness more generally and on mindfulness in the context of our relationship with the natural world, it aims to inspire us all to notice, explore, enjoy and share experiences of the simple joy of being alive.

I would love to hear your thoughts, comments, questions, or any of your own experiences of mindfulness and of nature.  Please leave comments here, or contact me directly!

6 thoughts on “Why Mindfulness of Nature?

  1. Bethan John

    Having been one of those friends exploring the Yorkshire Dales, it’s maybe not surprising that I totally agree!

    I love nothing more to be out in the wilds, exploring new places and meeting new creatures, or just being there in the natural world. This is when I’m at my happiest.

    But still, I don’t make enough time for it and sometimes these experiences are ruined by negative thoughts that I’m unable to shift …I’m caught up in them and unable to focus on what I’m experiencing just at that moment.

    For me, this is what’s so important about the mindfulness techniques that Claire explores in her book and why I’m so happy to see she’s started this blog – can’t wait to read more posts!

  2. Amita Vaux

    Totally identify with this. However, I also identify with being ‘lost in thoughts’ when I’m in nature more than anywhere else. It’s not necessarily unpleasant either.
    Where does mindfulness draw the line between positive rumination and destructive overthinking?

    1. clairethompson Post author

      Thanks Amita and glad to hear that you feel the same about your time spent in nature! I know what you mean about being lost in thoughts, when it is pleasant. I don’t think there is anything wrong with this, nor do I think it goes “against mindfulness”. I don’t see it as drawing a line between the two. As I see it, mindfulness isn’t about not giving in to destructive overthinking, or not giving in to positive rumination. It is about having the choice to do so or not. About becoming aware of when you are thinking, and whether you want to stay with that and pursue it. It’s just about choosing where to place your attention right now. Rather than allowing your ‘autopilot’ to choose for you. So, if when you are in nature, you are aware that positive thoughts arise, and you enjoy to be lost in them out of choice – then there is no reason not to do (and it doesn’t make you any less mindful!).

  3. Christopher Stokes

    Thank you Claire for this excellent blog, and for your book Mindfulness & the Natural World which is a real treasure. Here’s an experience I would like to share with you.

    Today began unforgettably for me with the most spectacular sunrise I’ve ever seen in Britain, and I’m overwhelmingly thankful that I witnessed this awesome light show which lasted for no more than fifteen minutes.

    Not only was the eastern horizon ablaze with countless ever-changing shades of red, but this palette was reflected across the whole planetarium as the light of the rising sun played on wispy clouds.

    This was a gigantic opening ceremony for the new day – but who knew? I wouldn’t have known, except that having put the clocks back last night I was earlier to bed than usual, and awoke naturally at dawn without needing the bedside alarm clock. So at 6.15am I witnessed an astonishing sunrise which had practically vanished a quarter of an hour later.

    This entirely unforeseen experience has much to teach me. My resolve to ground my life in mindfulness of the present moment, and particularly in the natural world, has been patchy in recent weeks because my wife and I have been busy moving house, but now for a few brief minutes I’ve been arrested by a numinous dawn.

    My own preoccupations evaporated as I gazed at this sight, reminding me that my transient everyday thoughts, concerns and irritations are as nothing compared to the magnificence and mysteriousness of the natural world.

    1. clairethompson Post author

      Thank you Christopher for sharing your lovely experience of a beautiful sunrise. It does feels like a privilege when your experiences of the natural world surprise you when you may be least expecting it (and possibly even more so when everyone else is still asleep!!). And yes, I can not agree more, in my experience, nothing puts our concerns, worries, thoughts and anxieties into perspective more than the natural world can! I wish you many more happy encounters such as this one 🙂

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