As we walked into the stunning Dofertal Valley, we listened to the energising sound of the crashing river. We inhaled the fresh scent of the pines infusing the pure mountain air. We felt the wind on our faces and the warmth of the sunshine as it intermittently appeared from behind the clouds. We gazed up at the impressive cliffs towering above us and plunging down below us into the glacial valley. Crystalline water trickled out of the cracks of every rock-face and waterfalls cascaded down all around us. The entire canyon exuded pure life. What better place to learn to be mindful of our natural senses? This is where I recently spent a week leading my first Mindfulness in Nature Alpine Holiday Course– in Hohe Tauern National Park, Austria.
One of Europe’s largest nature reserves, Hohe Tauern is a primeval landscape of dramatic snow-capped peaks, beautiful forests and white-water rivers. Our group of 6 was hosted in a recently renovated guest house called MoaAlm situated at 1,800 metres above sea level, above the small community of Kals am Grossglockner. We were all warmly welcomed to our ‘home away from home’ for the week by our lovely hosts, Barbara and Hubert, their very talented chefs Beatrix and Florian and their gorgeous (huge and cuddly!) Bernese Mountain dog, Nelson.
The breathtaking Dofertal Valley was undeniably the ideal place for Day 3 of my ‘mindfulness in nature’ course, which focused on the development of mindfulness of nature around us -using our natural senses. I led the group through a series of different activities including mindful listening, seeing, and barefoot walking, followed by discussions and sharing of experiences:
“I have never had the opportunity to notice how alive my feet could feel after walking barefoot in the meadow and dipping them in freezing cold mountain river water. It’s such a great feeling!”
“It’s really grounding to feel a direct contact with the Earth when walking barefoot. I’ve not experienced how such a simple activity can generate a true feeling of calm and belonging in nature”
After continuing our hike a little further, we stopped again for a mindful tasting guessing game during which lots of fun was had by all! Can you guess this one?
My ‘mindfulness in nature’ course included a variety of group discussions, meditations and games. The course aimed to reconnect participants with a sense of belonging in nature, by discovering the natural world within them and around them whilst introducing the practice of mindfulness throughout.
The week also involved morning yoga sessions with Barbara (a perfect start to the day!), daily hikes through stunning ever-changing landscapes, fantastic wildlife encounters (starring golden eagles, ibexes, mountain goats, dippers and orchids to name a few!), delicious food (including amazing cakes!)… and perhaps even the occasional evening Schnapps 😉
I feel incredibly grateful to have shared this week with such a wonderful, fun, generous and positive group of people, all of whom very quickly felt like friends.
I would like to thank them all for making this Alpine week so special and full of smiles and laughter. And huge thanks to Barbara, Hubert, Florian, Beatrix and Nelson for welcoming us into their mountain home.
We could not have had a better setting to discover and practice mindfulness of our wonderful natural world!
Below some kind comments about the course from participants:
“The course was really interesting and covered the essential “Beginner’s guide” to mindfulness in a stunning setting”
“Claire’s insightful mindfulness course and the incredibly thoughtful way we were looked-after by Barbara and Hubert, meant that I experienced an intense connection with MoaAlm, the pristine Alpine forest and mountains, the group and and rekindled a strong connection with raw nature itself.”
“I wasn’t quite sure what to expect, but I have found the course really interesting and feel that it has really opened my mind to thinking about nature and aspects of my life in a way that I perhaps would not have before. The course provided me with tools, ideas and exercises I can do at home as well. Thank you for a great week!”
“Your manner and kindness are engaging. I feel very grateful for the experience”
“It was a fantastic week! I loved the mindful seeing exercise, and looking at all the colours, textures and shapes around us and the mindful tasting game was so much fun!”
I will be back at MoaAlm in 2017 running “mindfulness in nature” courses in early summer and late autumn. More information to come soon but please contact me or Barbara and Hubert at MoaAlm to find out more.
Thanks to Jeremy Peters for all the photos in the post.