I have a meditation reminder on my phone to help keep my priorities straight, but even though I love to meditate, and believe firmly in all its powerful properties, I still often find myself struggling to get the work done.
A good solution to this can be as simple as opening the front door and going outside.
I take daily walks in the woods with my dogs, which are meditative but not exactly meditation—I adhere to the idea that meditating should be about disciplined focus and when I’m walking around the woods I’m pretty loose—but it’s not hard to make any outside time a true meditation practice.
Recently, while I was in Sedona, I was reminded of this simple technique for energizing my practice, and all it took was a few spontaneous minutes sitting on a bench by a creek.
I had just woken up from a nap on the last day of our stay there after a week of hectic traveling; my husband and I had been to San Diego to see two of our daughters, then to Scottsdale to see the other two, and then to Sedona where we took four-five hour hikes four days in a row. I was exhausted, and hadn’t set aside one second on the whole trip to meditate.
While my husband continued to sleep, I tiptoed out of our cabin and down to the water, thinking that I what I needed was some fresh air. All along the stream there were rough hewn benches, and I flopped down in the one nearest to the water. I watched happily as a mother duck led her five little newborns in zigzagging lines against the current, stretched my aching legs and sighed deeply.
Tomorrow, we would go home, but I had these last few hours in this magical place.
Without thinking about it I closed my eyes and drew my attention to my breath, and felt that immediate shift of awareness into something deeper and more present. I decided I would properly meditate and folded my legs beneath me in full lotus right there on the bench. My sore hips opened and and I placed my palms together and whispered, “Om, shanti, shanti shanti,” exhaling unintentionally loudly when I finished. It seemed like layers of stress evaporated with that exhale.
As always, I noticed the entire world snap into focus straight away—an astonishing process because I become instantly aware of how un-aware I was mere moments before.
The sounds of the water washing over stones and leaping gladly between the larger rocks filled my ears, as did the separate songs of dozens of birds and a woodpecker having a romance with a tree trunk nearby. I heard the slow footsteps in the sand of someone near me; an adult, I knew because I could hear the faster, lighter footsteps of the child that ran behind. The air was cool and fresh, and sifted through with warm sunlight, and every molecule in the world was vivid, visceral and alive.
It was so effortless to slip into this state of mind outside along the river because nature exists in an inherently meditative state herself. Things unfold from moment to moment instinctively, logically, in a timeless dance, un-marred by our human tendency to become wrapped up in the insanity of our own thinking.
If we can allow ourselves to join that dance, we can find great relief from our day to day suffering.
I don’t know how long I sat there—if I had to guess I would say ten minutes or so—but I was utterly transformed by the time I brought myself back to the surface. Those few moments of being outdoors and relinquishing my attachments to my thoughts brought immeasurable peace—and what I have learned is that they always do.
It always works.
As I wrote that last sentence I had to laugh—the alert on my iPhone just went off reprimanding me (at least that’s how it felt) to “meditate soon.”
And I will, but I’m not going to sit on my old worn cushion in front of my alter in an airless room with my timer ticking the moments away. No, today I will meditate with my eyes open on the seat of my bike as I cruise slowly through the woods soaking in all the details that surround me.
Meditation can take place anywhere, anytime—and should. As often as we remember to, we can simply breathe, listen to our breath and let it bring us into the present moment to partake of whatever wonders we may find.
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Editor: Travis May