Finding Mindfulness in Nature and Urban Landscapes in Cumbria
When you think of mindfulness the first thoughts that might enter your head could be around sitting cross-legged and meditating but the practice is so much more than this. This week we're looking at how you can become more mindful in Cumbria.
So, what exactly is Mindfulness?
Well, Professor Mark Williams the former director of the Oxford Mindfulness Centre says that mindfulness means knowing directly what is going on inside and outside ourselves, moment by moment.
Mindfulness is widely reported to have a positive impact on mental wellbeing.
Williams explains that this is because mindfulness allows us to become more aware of the stream of thoughts and feelings that we experience, which allows us to see how we can become entangled in that stream in ways that aren’t helpful.
Finding mindfulness in nature: When our lives are busy, and we have spare time to be in nature it’s easy to just go for a walk either by ourselves or with others and not truly be present in our surroundings.
An exercise that can help us is awareness of body and space.
For this exercise, I went to Brockhole in the Lakes, but you can choose any space in nature that makes you feel the most comfortable whether that be a local park, your garden or going a little further out your way to the coast or maybe even the Lakes.
Start by settling into the rhythm of a pace that you feel comfortable at and recognise the contact of your feet with the ground beneath. Identify the feeling within your feet, are they heavy or quite light?
Awareness of sound
Taking in sounds is another way we can become more mindful. Can you hear birds chirping or the sound of water splashing against the shore if you are near water?
Whatever sounds you hear even if you want to resist listening to them for example it may be a negative sound just allow them to enter your ears and then leave your ears whilst making a gentle mental note of the sound.
Awareness of surroundings Sight is a great one to practise especially if you are in a large outdoor area. Just start by noting the things you can see around you.
This could be blossoms on trees, flowers emerging from the ground or even animals you may see darting from trees or swimming in nearby water if there is any.
Awareness of touch
Feeling is just another one of the senses you can tap into on your walk and we’ve already practised some of it whilst settling into our walking pace.
Can you feel the wind against your skin? Is it hot, mild or cold whilst you are out on your walk? Do you feel tired, energised or content whilst you are out on your walk? These are just a few suggestions for tapping into feeling and the best way to practice this is to acknowledge feelings and allow them to come and go.
If you are sensitive towards awareness of feelings because they are negative it may be worth taking a few moments to find something amongst you in nature such as a pinecone, flowers or stick and touch them to help you feel more grounded. What does the flower feel like? Is it soft or spiky? Does it feel delicate or rough? Observing details about objects that we can touch can prevent unpleasant sensations from becoming too much.
Awareness of scent The last part of becoming more present and mindful in nature is becoming conscious of smells. Are there any particularly strong smells?
Are the things you can smell pleasant or unpleasant?
Could you take a moment to seek out a scent, this could be stopping for a couple of minutes and smelling wildflowers or wild herbs?
At the end of your mindful walk, it’s helpful to acknowledge what you achieved and what you struggled with.
For some people finding focus and being present within the moment whilst practising mindfulness can be challenging.
Mindfulness helps remind us that even if we have lost focus through thoughts and feelings it’s okay to accept that you have and then bring focus back to either the breath, body or our surroundings like in this exercise.
Over time the more you practise mindfulness the more aware you can become of thoughts or feelings taking over and it helps you realise that whatever difficulties you may be going through they don’t have control over us.
It might be helpful to write down these awareness techniques for your next walk. If you are more of an auditory learner, you can download a mindfulness app or look up exercises like this on a music streaming app or YouTube.
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