Note: At the bottom of this written practice there is a recording of it, if you would prefer to listen. In the practices that contain a guided meditation, please remember never to listen to these recorded meditations when driving or working with dangerous machinery.
As I sit in Central Park, one of the great gifts of this time is that I can soak in the steady and quiet presence of the large trees that surround me. Above and beyond the beneficial chemicals that the trees naturally emit, and above and beyond the oxygen they offer in the process of their own respiration, there is also the radiating quality of their steady stature and strength. Even though I’m sure that I project onto and into them qualities I imagine or need, I sense that the presence and qualities they exude are not all from my imagination. What I feel in my body is a deep response to the gifts offered by the trees, which include the physical and emotional nourishment I receive from the time spent with them.
This got me to thinking about all the different aspects of nature that we encounter all the time if we are lucky enough to either live in the country or to be able to spend time outdoors in parks, near lakes, the ocean, and more if we live in an urban setting. Because I live in New York City, Central Park has been an important resource for me, a place I can go and soak in the gifts of nature’s qualities. There are other parks, as well, and all of them offer gifts of healthy nourishment and well-being to those of us who are urban dwellers.
For this week’s practice, I invite you to become even more aware of the aspects of nature that support your sense of steadiness, grounding, upliftment, well-being, contentment, and more. For example, there may be boulders or other stone people in your immediate environment, perhaps in your backyard if you have a yard with your home. As you lean on them, or look at them, notice their steady presence, notice what it’s like soak in their solidity, their strength. Or, there may be birds and you find that you can imagine being one of them, flying over the landscape. Notice what you experience in your body as you do this. There may be bodies of water where you can find inspiration and where you may even be able to swim, kayak, or in other ways engage the water directly. You can even connect with clouds or with the wind currents that flow around the planet, imagining that you have that freedom of movement and then noticing what happens in your body.
We also understand more deeply now that soil is comprised of a living, dynamic community of life forms working together to do their appointed tasks of ingestion, digestion, elimination, collaboration. If you find yourself lying down on the earth, notice your experience when you remember that under you is an amazingly complex community supporting life in constant and enlivening ways. Notice what you experience as you soak in earth energy, allowing it to rise up into your body and your psyche, noticing how it can nourish your physical body, your emotional aspect of being, your mental aspect of being, your spiritual connection in whatever way you experience that.
Everywhere in nature, whether that be nature writ large or a small urban park, there is Nature’s presence and the nourishment it offers. It’s a matter of where you place your attention.
For this week’s practice, I invite you to orient to any and all aspects of Nature and to notice what qualities of Nature’s presence you connect with along the way. Then, above and beyond noticing, take time to resonate with, soak in, and allow yourself to be touched by what you encounter. Give yourself time to receive the nourishment available when you linger with some aspect of nature, some representative of Nature’s presence and intelligence. You may discover that there are experiences available to you that you hadn’t known were available, or even possible.
And, as part of this week’s practice, be sure to include gratitude in your exploration. Offering appreciation and gratitude to all that you encounter along the way is a great gift of your own presence. Give yourself an opportunity to notice your experience when you do this. Take time to feel into the flow of your gratitude and appreciation to whatever aspect of nature you engage and notice how your feelings and expressions of gratitude are received.
As with all these practices, please remember to bring along curiosity as your constant companion. Curiosity opens us to experience and, as such, it’s a very important ally in the context of these practices. Also remember to pat gently on the head any judgments that may arise. Allow these judgments to flow on by without your having to do anything with or about them. They are just the next thing arriving on your ever-flowing stream of consciousness. Also, please be sure to allow room for mixed feelings because it’s important to honor your wholeness and to accept that mixed feelings are part of the journey of being human.