These are strange times we are living in indeed. During Covid-19, lockdown most public venues have shut their doors, pubs and restaurants are closed, and only the most essential of shops remain open. It can be a struggle to find our feet when so many of our normal comforts have been suddenly taken from us. Without the normal entertainments, we might begin to feel bored, restless, anxious or down.
Amidst the uncertainty and the difficulty of social isolation, we can grow our heart wider and touch a stable source of happiness.
Through all this, though, there is one show that continues to boom—in fact perhaps it’s even doing a little better than before. It’s lively and it’s diverse and it’s full of beautiful forms and colours. Some might even call it the greatest show on Earth. This show is free and it doesn’t need a ticket.
This show is of course the glorious unfolding of springtime. As we take care of ourselves and our loved ones through these uncertain times, the beauty, freshness and dependability of spring can be a source of strength and inspiration for us. You might have already noticed the first buds, leaves and flowers emerging on the tree branches, or the bees and insects beginning to spring back into life. Spring is a time of renewal, and nature is inviting us to come and appreciate the show.
In this blog, we’ll be sharing a few simple nature-inspired mindfulness practices that can help us to feel more connected during this time of isolation. Amidst the uncertainty and the difficulty of social isolation, we can grow our heart wider and touch a stable source of happiness.
Eating with gratitude
One easy and enjoyable way to feel connected to nature during this time is to connect with our food when we are eating—perhaps for one meal a day, or just during a snack time in the morning or afternoon. However long or short the time is, we set it aside as a time for us to really enjoy the taste of the food and to appreciate where it has come from.
Touching into gratitude for the food in this way can bring us a lot of joy.
Before we eat, we take a few moments to look at the food in front of us on our plate or in our hands. Perhaps there is a tomato, or a sausage, or a piece of fruit there.
Where has this food come from? We take some time to bring to mind the plant or animal that this food came from—how it was nurtured by the sun, by the rain and the water, by the earth or grass which provided sustenance for the growing plant or animal. We appreciate the remarkable complexity of this process of growth into a mature plant or animal, into this food which is tasty and which can nourish our own body.
We give thanks as well to the farmers and to all those who helped to grow this food. And we appreciate the lorry drivers, warehouse workers, and shop staff who continue to work through the lockdown to bring us the food we need to live.
Touching into gratitude for the food in this way can bring us a lot of joy. We can be as creative as we like as we imagine everything that has played a part in this food being on our plate right in front of us.
When we’re ready, we can begin eating and give ourselves the gift for a few moments or minutes of really tasting the food mindfully—experiencing all of the delicious flavours and textures in each mouthful, eating slowly, without any hurry. This is a lot easier if no one is talking to us and when we are not in front of a TV or computer screen! Depending on the situation we are in, we might want to invite others to try eating like this with us, or to spend a few minutes eating alone each day (perhaps just a snack).
Finding a regular sit spot to enjoy nature
Another very enjoyable practice during this time of year when there is so much growth, change and diversity in the natural world is to find a “sit spot”. A sit spot is a place you return to regularly—perhaps once a day, or even a few times each day—to just be there to take in the beauty and the intricacy of the nature around you.
Open your eyes and take in the beauty of the natural world before you. What is actually there?
It’s good to pick a spot that is in your home or very close to it—this might be a comfortable armchair next to a window with a beautiful view, the steps at the front of your house, or a bench or chair in your garden. Pick a spot that feels safe and which has a good view of some source of natural beauty—some trees, the sky, or green hills in the distance, for example. It’s good to be outside if you can to feel the air on your face, but if that’s not possible, then that is fine too. Experiment with a set amount of time—maybe 10 minutes, or 20, or 30—just to be there with nature.
Start by closing your eyes (if you feel comfortable to) and taking three deep in- and out-breaths, releasing all the tension in your body and any worries you are carrying. Feel the contact between your body and seat supporting you. Feel yourself surrounded and held by nature—the sounds, the sensations, the smells, or even just the air and the light coming through your eyelids.
Open your eyes and take in the beauty of the natural world before you. What is actually there? You might have looked through this window or sat in this garden a hundred times before, but never like this, in this moment. How is the light today? How are the clouds and the sky? Are there any animals or insects? How do the trees look?
The richness and diversity of the natural world can bring you—literally—back to your senses.
You can offer your curious, playful attention to all of the natural forms and colours that you see around you. As you mindfully explore, you might begin to notice things that you never saw before. You might even be startled about how you’ve managed to miss things that seem to be staring you in the face now! Explore all of the sights, sounds, smells and sensations of your encounter with the natural world. See how it ebbs and flows with the changing light, the blowing wind, and all the little creatures buzzing with life.
As you return to your sit spot on a regular basis, you start to develop a greater intimacy with all the changes—subtle and not-so-subtle—from day to day. The richness and diversity of the natural world can bring you—literally—back to your senses. It can foster and nourish a deeper, felt sense of connection with this larger unfolding play of life at springtime, giving you a source of support amidst the uncertainty.
Walking or exercising in nature
If you are lucky enough to be able to leave your home at this time, then you might like to take your walk or exercise in a nearby park or natural place. As well as being a time for energising and restoring yourself physically, you can use this time to nourish your emotional wellbeing too.
Nature is continually providing us with everything we need to live—this can be a steady source of joy and gratitude if we can touch into it regularly.
As you walk or run, you can bring your mind to your feet as they touch the ground. You feel the stability of the Earth beneath you, supporting you. You can touch into the vastness of the Earth as you do this—starting by being aware of the ground beneath your feet, and gradually expanding your awareness out to include the whole park, and perhaps beyond. Getting in touch with the stability and vastness of the Earth in this way is a wonderful way to ground and calm yourself.
As you breathe, you can become aware of the fresh air entering your lungs and the carbon dioxide leaving as you breathe out. You can remember that you are alive in this moment because the air is here for you to breathe. You can recognise the presence of the trees around you, breathing in the carbon dioxide that you breathe out, and breathing out the oxygen that you breathe in. Because the trees are there, alive, you too can be here, alive. Nature is continually providing us with everything we need to live—this can be a steady source of joy and gratitude if we can touch into it regularly.
In these unsettling times, spending time to be in touch with the beauty and play of nature can be a steady anchor for us.
As you move, you can experience the fluidity of your body—more than half of your body is made up of water. You can bring awareness to your legs and arms as they swing and flex, with the muscles coordinating together as your body moves forward. This energy in your muscles to walk or to run has come from the food you have eaten, from the fertility of the Earth and from the energy of the Sun. And the water or the fluids you have drunk have come from the rain, the lakes, or the sea. Nature is supporting your every movement and step, making it possible.
Of course, as well as being in touch with your own body and you move, you can also enjoy the beauty around you. Whether we are mindful of what is going on inside us or around us, we can connect with gratitude to nature once we find creative ways to do it.
These three practices are simple, but they can bring us a lot of happiness if we bring them to life with our creativity and heartfelt, regular attention. In these unsettling times, spending time to be in touch with the beauty and play of nature can be a steady anchor for us. And the connection, happiness, and depth of heart that our relationship with nature can bring us is something that can continue to grow well after these strange times have passed us by.