Two of my younger grandchildren enjoyed getting down on the ground with their new magnifying glasses and Mimi (me) enjoyed spending time with them exploring nature this summer. They discovered the shapes of the leaves, tiny insects unseen until viewed through the glass, the texture of mushrooms and bark on the trees, and the layers of earth.
After visiting with the littles I decided it would be fun to share the magnifying glasses with participants for the Mindfulness Outdoor Experience. We discovered that adults love them as much as the littles do so they have become a part of the experience. If you get the chance grab a magnifying glass and go out into nature to see what you can discover.
Some of the participants shared that they remember doing this as a child and wondered how they had forgotten how interesting and relaxing it was to get up close and personal to Mother Earth. Others lost themselves in the experience – forgetting time. It was just as fun for me as a guide witnessing their reactions and watching them explore.
When we move through life too quickly we miss a connection that is healing to the body, mind and soul. Those who walk or run for exercise looking down at their cell phone or checking their watch to see how far they went, to keep track of the time, to chat or text with someone never allow their body and mind to relax. They miss an opportunity to destress, to relax and enjoy the moment. Sometimes I see people running through the path and wonder if they ever really ‘see’ what is around them. Do they enjoy the sights, sounds, smells. Do they notice the textures, the small insects enjoying the flowers, the little newts wandering along the path. For to allow yourself to slow down you gain so much joy and appreciation of life. This feeling can be retained when you learn how to find this still point during chaotic life events. This is a gift that nature has taught me – finding my still point when life seems chaotic.
While slowing down in nature you begin to notice the colors, shapes, sizes, patterns, textures, scents, and hidden gems hiding in, on, and under leaves, flowers, bark. You realize there is life within the forest and begin to want to respect and protect Mother Nature and all who share this home with us – those without a voice who give us life.
As you begin to slow down you lose track of time, demands, worries and your body begins to relax. You begin to lose yourself in the moment as your body flows from space to space. After you remember what joy you found in nature as a child, or understand what you missed by not being in nature as a child.
By getting up close and personal with nature you exercise your eyes, your muscles, your lungs as you breath in the fresh air. You begin to understand your reciprocal connection to Nature. Everything is connected. The tiniest of insects is living because there are flowers, leaves, trees. The mushrooms and fungi bring new life and restore the soil. As you breath out carbon dioxide the trees breath it in and as they breath out oxygen you breath it in. What a beautiful life giving connection we have. Almost like a dance of life.
After sauntering and exploring, it is time for our sit spot. Everyone finds a tree, rock or place they feel comfortable. We are very still and quiet with eyes open as we take in our surroundings. Our senses have begun to open and we hear new sounds – see movement near and far – begin to smell earth, leaves, flowers, trees – feel the textures of the dirt, leaves, bark nearby. Our bodies are very relaxed at this point in the journey and we settle in as we lean on a tree, sit on a rock or sit on the warm earth. This is when most of the participants enjoy a personal experience while in the midst of a group setting.
After our sit spot we gather for counsel and participants are invited to share our experience – anything they noticed while sauntering in the woods, while looking through the magnifying glass, or while sitting quietly. Sometimes the sharing are very insightful.
Sometimes as you sit quietly you may have a little visitor as I did while sitting quietly next to a pond. Not just one but several dragonflies over the 20 minutes or so that I sat quiet and still. Some would brush along my hair while in flight. Others sat on my hand, my arm and both legs – not at the same time but over and over again. It was a magical time for me, the lover of dragonflies.
One of my most exciting times of the month is guiding the Mindfulness Outdoor Experiences. Discussing forest bathing, mindfulness, grounding, centering, meditation, sauntering and sit spots is so enjoyable. Hearing from participants about the knowledge of trees, insects, moss, lichen, land formations, Druidism, Buddhism, soil, and more always adds to the experience. No one is an expert at everything but we are all experts in something. This is why I love the diversity of the groups and when they are willing to share. We always have a poem or quote to share that seems to be perfect for that days experience. It always seems magical and this is the way I want to live my life.
I will share that last year while out sauntering on my own I had a couple of very interesting interactions with animals. One time with a deer and another with an owl – both lasting quite some time.
This little deer was enjoying the apple tree as I was walking out of the tree line. There she was just enjoying her meal on a nice sunny afternoon. At one point I thought she was choking and wondered how I would give her the heimlich maneuver. Thankfully I realized she was just trying to chew the apple. So I stood silently in awe watching her. She looked over at me and started walking toward me. We just stood there looking into one another’s eyes and she came a little closer. I on one side of the trail and she on the other. We had a special moment and then I heard someone. I looked up the hill and noticed a couple standing watching the deer and I – they were recording our special moment. I said good bye and left her to enjoy her fruit fest.
On another adventure I met up with an owl, or rather the owl met up with me. I was going into a wooded area where there were picnic tables to enjoy my lunch. As I sat at the table I heard a something crashing through the trees. To my surprise an owl landed on the branch almost above my head. I said hello and asked if there was a message – it was my very first encounter with an owl. As I ate my lunch we chatted. Every time I went to stand up the owl would hoot. When I sat down he/she would owl chat. We conversed with neither knowing what the other was saying. When my lunch was done I told the owl that I had to put my lunch bag away but I would return if he/she wanted to wait.
When I returned to the area, there was the owl sitting up in the tree. I sat back down for a bit and again, every time I stood the owl would hoot. After about ten more minutes I said I was taking a walk before dark and invited the owl to come along. He/she hooted when I stood and then followed me along the path to the clearing. Once at the clearing I shared that I would return after the walk and stay to visit if he/she was still there. We both went our ways.
After about two hours I returned to the same path in the woods. I heard the same noise as early through the trees and could not believe the owl returned to greet me. When I was standing still the owl would converse and as I moved would hoot at me. Walking along the path the owl swooshed back and forth across the path from tree to tree above me. At one point flew so close I thought he/she would land on my head. We returned to the picnic table and I sat down as the owl sat on the branch nearby. We continued our conversation until the darkness began to set in. I said, “When you are ready I will leave but it will have to be soon.” Eventually the owl turned, looked back at me, said something in owl language, hooted, stepped back and forth on the branch and then feathers up and off he/she went. It was such an amazing experience and one I shall cherish for life.
Have you had any interesting experiences in nature with animals or other wildlife? If so, what type of experience have you had? Have you ever had any connections with a tree, rock, animal, insect?
Love to hear from you.
Love and Light!