Mindfulness is deliberately and fully paying attention to the present moment, with an attitude of kindness and acceptance. It involves paying attention to our surroundings as well as ourselves – our breathing, sensations within the body, as well as emotions and thoughts.
I offer mindfulness in nature outings for small groups. For more information about mindfulness and how it can be practiced in nature, visit this page.
Do you want to have a richer and more complete experience in nature? Later on, would you like to be able to recall your visit in some detail? A nature journal can help. Writing or drawing in a journal can help us more fully attend to and process what we experience. It also will help us store it in memory (even if we later lost our notebook and could not use it to jog our memory).
Should you write or draw? Either one will be helpful, and of course you can do both. A combination of sketches and notes is great. And please avoid the error of thinking that you have to be great at writing or drawing or else you might as well not even try. Keeping a journal will help you attend to and think about your experience more deeply, and that will make your visit richer regardless of how polished your journal entry is.
If it is hard to know how to start, just write a few key words, not worrying about creating sentences or linking ideas. Just write words that come to you, and you can add to it later. Your thoughts and emotions are part of the trip as well. Don’t leave out your reactions to it.
You can quickly sketch a tree, a landscape, or a bird, or you could settle into a more complete work with colored pencils or watercolors. You might also draw a map of the route you walked and the landmarks you passed.
There are so many wonders in nature, millions of species that function in interrelated systems. We can be enthralled at the fact that such complexity can work so beautifully, and we can be amazed when we single out any particular species and try to fully appreciate it.
You don’t have to be a scientist to engage in nature study. Everyday people go bird watching, go herping (finding reptiles and amphibians), stay up long into the night mothing (seeing what moths and other insects come to a light at night), and study nature in other ways.
The rewards are not just intellectual. Nature study feeds our sense of curiosity and wonder, our appreciation of beauty and our experience of awe. When we truly are in awe, we are struck by how grand the world is, and we have the oddly reassuring understanding that we are only a small part of something much bigger than ourselves. It is easier then to assume our proper role as a member of the community of living things.
You can pursue nature study through organizations like the Audubon Society and museums and nature centers, which often provide informative presentations and guided experiences. If you are in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, you can also join Kayla West and me in exploring the LBJ National Grasslands in Wise County (see the Facebook group, LBJ Grasslands Project).