I have a regular meditation practice, but it is not always the same.
It took me a while to drop the self-judgement. That I was showing a lack of discipline in not doing the same meditation, in the same place, at the same time, every day.
For me, as for my asana practice, meditation is more fluid—something that adapts and changes depending on how my body and mind feel that day. Sometimes sitting on the floor in a quiet room is just the thing I need. But when I am feeling disconnected, apart, alone, anxious, tired or lonely, I find that meditating outdoors is incredibly healing. In that setting I find it easier to quiet the thoughts in my busy mind.
I am always in awe when in nature—knowing that I am a part of it is incredibly calming to me.
I feel like I belong there, which helps me to cultivate an appreciation for all the beauty that is around me all the time. It makes me feel connected to the earth, the seasons, nature and all living creatures.
After an outdoor meditation, I never feel lonely.
I awoke this morning to a perfect crayon-blue sky with the sun making the snow sparkle like a million little jewels. I fed our dog and bundled up to go out into the -21C day. I filled the bird feeder and dumped the compost in the snow-covered bin and walked across the riding ring towards the pond. My boots crunched as I trudged through the deep snow, following as much as possible the footsteps from my outing with the horse yesterday.
I stood by the pond and raised my face to the sun—a true sun salutation! One, two…five deep breaths, plus some side stretches. This is how I love to do asana. I could hear the birds chirping above and around me, most likely rejoicing at the sunny morning. I could see the sparrows in the topmost branches of the spruce trees, pecking at the remains of the cones.
The chickadees flitted from one tree to another.
“Where do they go?” I wondered. So, I stopped and I watched.
I focused on one chickadee, one of the many high up in a tree directly in front of me. He flew off the branch, in his wavy sort of way, up and down through the air and alighted on a very high branch of a scraggly spruce on the other side of the path.
Deep breaths. I watched and listened. The chickadee pecked here and there and hopped between a few other branches on the same tree. I was totally focused on him now. I could hear the other birds around me, and the distant clanging of the diesel tractor the farm hand was warming up by the barn. But I watched that chickadee and breathed. He flew over to an adjoining spruce, this one smaller and bushier than the last. I could see the flicker of his white and black feathers as he was semi-hidden in the thicker branches.
“Come and see; look deeply at your own life and see for yourself. This is the real nature of the spiritual journey.” ~ Joseph Goldstein
The world slowed. My breathing was deep, unforced, calm. All my attention was on that one little bird, one of many all around me. I had to bring my attention back several times, as thoughts about my day or the dogs or something else tried to take over.
How much time passed, I’m not sure—five, ten, maybe fifteen minutes. The meditation ended as one of the farm dogs banged into my leg on his joyous way past me on the path.
One last deep breath. Thank you, oh beautiful morning. Thank you perfect little chickadee.
I walked slowly back up the path, looking at the sky and snow, breathing in the cold air and felt totally at peace and grounded and incredibly grateful for this morning time with the birds.
This is what meditation is all about for me. Being outdoors, stopping and listening and really, truly looking at the wonders that are right in front of me. When I take the time to do this first thing in the morning, it changes everything. It’s a different kind of meditation. It is not about disconnecting with my surroundings. It is not about turning off my senses to be able to go deep within. Its about connecting with myself, in my surroundings and allowing my senses to be heightened. Feeling that I am both observer and part of it all. It is truly awe-inspiring.
With spring coming along, perhaps you will feel inspired to try some outdoor meditation too. This simple sequence is what works for me:
1. Connect to the earth. Stand tall and from the center of your belly downwards feel your feet rooted into the ground.
2. Steady your mind. Take a few steady, long, deep breaths, with your eyes closed, or open, focused on one point.
3. Use your senses. Listen and look and smell.
When you do this, does it change how you look at the rest of your day? It does for me.
I have breathed in fresh air and calmed my body and soul. When I come back in, the silence of the house is particularly solid after the chirping birds.
I see the steam rise as I pour my morning cup of tea from the blue teapot. It tastes richer.
Today in particular, I see the birds and squirrel at the bird feeder on the porch in a different way. I see how hard they work just to nourish themselves. I am particularly grateful for the thick slice of yesterday’s homemade bread I slather with peanut butter and eat.
As I then open up my computer to work, the knots on my worktable stand out, illuminated by the bright sunshine from outside.
Gratitude. Awe at nature. My day becomes something extra special.
My heart is truly full of peace.
Author: Katja Leccisi
Apprentice Editor: Carlene Kurdziel / Editor: Renée Picard
Photo: Sierra Goddess at Flickr