The benefits of meditation and mindfulness are well documented, as are the positive emotions associated with spending time in nature. I recently took the time to combine all three and this was my experience.
The tension in my body was rife at the outset of my journey, having had a busy day and an argument with my partner. On the short drive from my house to the Brisbane Corso I concentrated on leaving that tension behind by taking some deep breaths and paying attention, with limited success, to the leafy green streets I drove through.
The Brisbane Corso is a nature haven for city dwellers such as myself and I feel immense gratitude for its proximity to my home, but the truth is I rarely take the time to visit and appreciate it. As I settled into position atop a concrete drain with the river and a myriad of foliage in front of me, I noticed I was breathing more deeply and tension was slipping away from my body.
As a relatively inexperienced meditator I knew this would be a challenging task. I initially kept my eyes open and simply sat, taking in the sensory information of my immediate surrounds. A gentle breeze tickled my skin, bird song was close and melodic, patches of sunlight pierced the gaps between the trees, and as a motor boat sped past on the river I heard the lapping of water on the banks intensify in its wake.
My breathing had naturally slowed to a deep and regular rhythm, and I now closed my eyes and put my focus on the breath. I struggled for several minutes as I found my attention and thoughts wandering, and my mind attempting to narrate what was happening. I remembered to keep returning to the breath, and at other times to become the observer from outside of myself, both of which helped me to retain focus, and quieten the mind.
I never completely lost awareness of my external surrounds, even as I moved deeper inwards; it seemed rather that the two merged and my awareness knew no bounds. The breeze had picked up now and I experienced a strange yet exhilarating momentary feeling as the wind swept at me from the side, and seemed to carry away pieces of my physical being. My mind interfered at this stage, trying to name it and analyse it, which halted the process. But then I heard a gentle and reassuring voice telling me to be at peace and allow it. And then I was at peace and I did cultivate an attitude of allowance. Again, the wind seemed to sweep my physical being away until it felt like I was falling forward in my head, momentarily set adrift in a flood of consciousness where space and time receded. I then caught a glimpse of what I assumed was universal consciousness, a brief connection to all that is. I don’t know if it scared me or I was just caught unawares but at that stage I pulled out and slowly came back to my physical being.
It was with reluctance that I put my hands over my eyes and slowly opened them, returning to my physical surrounds. What I felt then was a peace and stillness, and a connection with something outside of myself that I’d not previously experienced with meditation performed in my home. This significant difference in my feelings and experience correlates with Coleman’s (n.d.) notion that the qualities of peace, clarity and stillness we try to cultivate with meditation are wholly supported and enhanced by nature.
I explored my surrounds with new eyes. I observed the minutiae of nature I’d not noticed at the start, and felt as if I was in the most perfect spot in the world, a new wave of gratitude sweeping over me. Always having had a deep affinity with water, I gazed upon the river as the sun’s rays danced upon the surface, and felt a deep longing to dive in and merge wholly and solely with the water.
My state was dream or trance like and as I rose to return to the world, I stopped to stand with my bare feet on the earth, intuitively sensing that I needed to ground myself. I left the Corso with a small smile on my face, relaxed, at peace, and more observant of the world around with me. Those feelings stayed with me for several hours. I now look forward to my next meditational foray into nature and realise that there is no need to make excuses about being time-poor or getting to the Corso, I actually have a small nature oasis in my own backyard which will serve just as well. As Coleman states, nature is never far away and ‘we can learn from it wherever we are’ (n.d., para. 13).
So next time you're feeling stressed, pressured or blue, find a quiet piece of our natural world and simply sit and soak it in - meditate if you like, but even just being there and appreciating the beauty will produce positive emotions.