When I was a teenager I realised something very valuable: learning doesn’t just happen in a classroom.
One of the things I learned as a child and remembered while living in the Lake District following a series of devastating life challenges, was the value of solitary time in Nature. Time spent alone in the natural world teaches many things, especially about our true selves. Wandering about in nature stimulates the senses, guides us gently into the present moment, cleanses us of negative emotions and somehow re-energises our spirit.
When I was at the lowest point in my life, nature spoke to me. Not in a “spooky” or supernatural way, but rather in an insightful way. Somehow being connected mindfully to the natural world reconnected me intuitively. I began to notice life-lessons from nature all around me and could tune in to my true nature, not the persona I had hidden behind for years.
I call this powerful state of being Natural Mindfulness.
What is a Natural Mindfulness Experience?
Our Natural Mindfulness walks are the easiest way to experience Natural Mindfulness in the comfort of a small group of like-minded and like-hearted people. On our walks you naturally find yourselves connecting with the natural world, each other and yourself, or your true nature as I like to refer to it. These simple, gentle walking experiences merely scratch the surface and serve as a simple introduction to the state and power of Natural Mindfulness.
Different cultures have rituals and traditions which draw on the powerful educational, therapeutic, and spiritual power of solitary time in the natural world. Solitary time in nature is a vital component of all Journeys’ and rites of passage. As well as our walks, we will be launching some programmes that explore a more deeper experience of Natural Mindfulness. These retreats and Walkshops will encourage participants to explore their personal relationship with the natural world, learn to listen to their instincts, gain self-confidence, promote curiosity, explore intuitively and change the way they deal with life-struggles.
There are many variations to a Natural Mindfulness experience, but in its simplest form, I like to think of it as “aimless wandering”. The goal of the experience is to be without a goal or a deadline. Participants are encouraged to wander freely guided along trails, through the woods, along streams, where ever seems interesting. They are encouraged to let go of the worries and concerns of daily life and to focus on the present moment. Wandering slowly across the landscape, exploring interesting trees, taking a moment to reflect on a stream, following a deer trail through the woods, they quickly become engulfed in the world around them, losing themselves in the stream of the present moment. The experience can be incredibly joyous, relaxing, therapeutic and empowering.
Where does the insight and learning come from?
Humans learn experientially. The learning that comes out of a Natural Mindfulness experience might come from physical experiences that the person has during their walk such as getting lost for a time, watching fish feed along the edge of a stream, discovering the tracks of a deer, or watching the sun move through the sky as the day progresses. They learn about the physical world around them, learn about their own physical and mental abilities, and learn to be more acute observers. The human mind and psyche seem to work in mysterious ways. Often insight and awareness are preceded by a “letting go” of the problem or concern. Shutting down our rational mind, while at the same time flooding our senses with the beauty of nature might be a catalyst for innovative insights into deep seated concerns a person might have. Many people talk about experiencing things on a Natural Mindfulness walk and realise that the experience was a metaphor for an issue in their life. This realisation often leads to new insight about how to approach this issue. I call these insights our life-lessons from nature.
Are the walks/experiences safe?
Our walks can be very enjoyable and powerful experiences. Their power stems in part from their simplicity. There are no set rules about the “right way” to facilitate a natural mindfulness walk, however there are areas that all our guides should take into consideration:
- The skills and capabilities of the participants (how I set up a Natural Mindfulness walk for a group of adults with experience in the outdoors, is very different from how I set it up for parents with children).
- The physical hazards of the landscape in which the walk will occur (Is the area a safe one for this activity to be run? Some places are not).
- Their own skills and capabilities to deal with problems which might arise from the activity (such as someone twisting an ankle and needing assistance to get back).
Some things we often do to ensure a safe experience for participants include:
- Require walkers to wear suitable footwear and clothing appropriate for weather conditions.
- Choose an area which will not pose difficulties they will not be able to deal with in a safe way.
- Always carry a phone for emergencies.
This is by no means an exhaustive list of safety concerns or precautions. It is up to the guide to assess each situation, landscape, and participant in order to determine a safe method to facilitate the experience. Each walking guide also has a copy of our Guide Training Manual.
Since I launched Cotswold Natural Mindfulness in August 2014, my team and I have done hundreds of guided walks in many different places and in many contexts. Each experience is different and insightful in a new way, whether it is the discovery of a plant I have never seen before, insight into why I have been so frustrated at home lately, or just a refreshing breather from the daily grind. For me, and many others, wandering aimlessly in nature really is good for the mind, body and soul.
If you would like to try a Natural Mindfulness experience for yourself, here are some opportunities for you:
- Book onto one of our regular monthly walks – Dates available here
- BUY Natural Mindfulness – your personal guide to the healing power of nature connection