4 simple meditations to feel a part of nature
Come home to nature, anywhere, through meditation. By Kathleen Palti
Spending time outside enjoying the natural world can help to reduce stress and renew energy. During this past year of lockdowns and isolation many people have found a lifeline in gardens and public parks. Others, however, might struggle to access calming outdoor places. For all of us, meditation can help bring us home to nature, wherever we are, indoors or out, on a beautiful beach or in a busy city.
We are a part of nature, and simply by breathing and moving upon this Earth, we belong within an astonishing and interconnected living system. Meditation can open awareness to this belonging. Let’s explore four practices for connecting from anywhere with our inner nature and the greater natural world.
Focusing upon the flow of the breath in and out of the body is a traditional method of anchoring the mind in the present moment for meditation. The air we breathe is created by all the living beings on the planet. The oxygen is made by the plankton and trees, and shared freely among all animals and plants. Our breath moves through us from the lungs into our living cells, and back out. It makes us continuous with the Earth and the atmosphere. Sitting for a time, focus upon the breath and try noticing this exchange taking place. Feel how the living world welcomes you. Offer gratitude to the oceans, soils and plants who create this vibrant air.
Grounding the body
Sitting, standing, or lying down, take a moment to notice how your body is supported by the Earth. Feel where you meet the ground. Even if this is indirect, through a chair or floor, ultimately you are held by the Earth, unconditionally. Scan through your body, noticing sensation or lack of sensation, starting at the feet, moving upwards along the legs, the back and front body, arms, hands, and reaching the neck and head. Recognise your presence here, at home with the Earth.
Loving kindness meditation, or Metta in the Buddhist tradition, trains the mind in feeling warmth towards others. The principle of this practice is that the brain forms habits, including emotional habits, so deliberately spending time in a state of loving kindness strengthens this response to life and to others.
Metta typically involves thinking of a person you love, and wishing them well. Next, the meditator wishes well to more and more people, including themselves, opening the heart in recognition that all beings want to be happy.
Loving kindness is also a practice that supports connection with the more-than-human world. We can send wishes for the wellbeing of other animals, of ecosystems and even the whole planet, nourishing our love for the world.
Bring a place or an animal you love to mind and wish them well, perhaps saying in your mind: “May you be healthy and full of life. May you flourish and thrive. May you be happy and free.” Choose any words that feel right for you. Gradually include in your meditation more and more beings: places, plants and animals in your country, and beyond, in the oceans, mountains and forests. Finally send your love to the whole planet, opening your heart to the Earth in whatever way you wish, with awe, gratitude and love.
Hearing bird song in the morning, stepping into cool water on a hot day, smelling roses, watching ocean waves: these are experiences that bring joy. They open out our idea of who we are beyond narrow ego to something vast and connected.
Where do you find joy in nature? It can be something very simple: the movement of your own body exercising, a purring cat, a new moon. Practice joy by bringing these experiences to mind. Recall them in detail, being specific, and offer gratitude for them. When you wish, move on to the next thing that comes to mind. It could be places that you have not been to, or beings that you have learned about. Feel glad that they exist!
After the meditation, as you move on with your day, you might find yourself more aware of all that is living here with you as part of the Earth and share in its vibrancy.
Kathleen Palti is a writer and yoga teacher living in Israel, with a passion for exploring practices that help us to experience a vibrant connection with nature. Each week she guides a free online meditation with an ecological perspective. She also facilitates workshops to support and sustain one another in acting on behalf of life on Earth. Find her at: withnature.life or Instagram @withnature.life