Do you feel stressed by the chaos in the world and uncertainty of life these days? These are strange and surreal times and it's easy to get lost in worry and anxiety. It's more important than ever to find ways to stay centred and grounded.
So how do we stay centred and grounded in the midst of all this uncertainty, how do we find joy in our journey each day?
Nature is always a calming, healing balm. In the midst of the chaos of life, taking time to connect with nature in a mindful way can really help you to stay grounded in the moment instead of lost in anxiety and worry for the future. Mindfulness is one of the most valuable tools we can easily access to help relieve stress and anxiety, to create more balance and find joy.
What exactly is mindfulness and how can it help?
Mindfulness is paying attention to all of our experiences (inward and outward), in the present moment, with kindness, curiosity, and without judgement. It means paying attention to our body sensations, thoughts, feelings and experiences without believing they are right or wrong, good or bad. They just ARE.
By paying attention and tuning into the present moment, we can develop a better sense of awareness of what is happening in our own minds (i.e. our perceptions, thought patterns, reactions) as well as a better understanding and connection to the world around us. This helps us to SEE THINGS DIFFERENTLY, and to transform the way we think, feel and act.
There are many ways to practice mindfulness. It’s not complicated. It’s simply a question of closely observing something specific. It does take practice though, in order to make mindfulness an integral part of your life experience. You can practice mindfulness in everything you do. I've found that awakening and paying attention to all five of my senses is a wonderful way to practice mindfulness daily, to ground myself in the present moment and to stay focused on what is important.
And the life of a garden is a great way to tune into your senses and to practice being in the present moment. You could wander in your own garden, visit a local garden or park, or even a garden centre. Make it a field trip, a day of wandering and treasure hunting.
My husband and I love visiting gardens, and have been to many around the world. We walk together, and then often we’ll wander apart, each of us following our own interest and intuition, wandering until we find each other again.
Closer to home these days, we recently visited a beautiful rock garden and arboretum a few hours away. In the middle of the city, we found a true escape, a peaceful respite from our everyday busyness. I love to turn a wander like this into a mindfulness practice. And it’s amazing what you find when you slow down, tune into your experience and really pay attention. That day, I found many treasures including:
Without being present to my experience, I would have missed all these lovely treasures of nature. And there’s something quite satisfying about searching for and finding “treasures”, whatever the treasure might be. I collected these treasures with my camera. Some treasures are impossible to capture, such as the scents I experienced, the emotions I felt and the memories evoked by the wander. Those treasures remain in my heart and mind as the joy and peace of the experience.
The next time you wander in a garden, of any size, try to SEE THINGS DIFFERENTLY. Here are some TIPS to turn a walk through a beautiful garden into a mindful treasure hunt.
1. When you first enter the garden, stop…and just breathe. Inhale for 4 counts, hold for 4 counts, exhale for 4 counts, hold for 4 counts. Continue this pattern for just a few cycles of breathing, imagining your breath flowing smoothly along each side of a square.
2. Set your intention to be present to your garden experience, to all the sensations, to wander with awareness. Wandering in silence gives you the opportunity to focus your attention on what you are experiencing.
3. This is an opportunity to slow down from your usual pace, to move at a more relaxed pace, and to take your time to really notice all the layers and details of your sensorial experience. These are the treasures of the garden, just waiting to be discovered.
4. Look around you and see it all as a whole, then notice the details. Notice the colours that are present. Is there an apparent colour scheme? How many shades of green can you find? Notice the shapes: the shapes of the trees, the shrubs, the plantings, the paths and walkways. Soften your gaze as you look out across the garden and see how this affects what you observe, and also what you feel.
As you wander, look at each plant and notice the details and various shades of the colours, notice the shape of the leaves and the flowers, look closer and notice the shape of the petals, the texture and colour of the centre of the flowers.
Notice any birds, small animals or insects that inhabit or visit the garden. The more closely you look, the more you will see.
5. Listen to the sounds of the garden: the rustling of the leaves in the wind, the creaking of branches as they sway, the sound of insects and birds. And what else can you hear? Sometimes it’s easier to close your eyes so that you can focus on the sounds. Don’t try to describe the sounds to yourself, don’t create a story around them, just notice them.
6. The scent-scape of the garden is the unseen personality and beauty of the garden. What can you smell when you step into the garden? Notice all the scents wafting through the air…scents of the earth, the blossoms, the trees… As you wander, notice when new fragrances and aromas arise. Notice how the scents emerge and unfold, revealing the hidden beauty. Bury your nose in flowers, and see if they evoke memories or emotions.
7. Reach out and touch the leaves and the grasses and the trees, see how they feel and how each plant has a different texture, a different personality. Really notice. You might dig your hands in the soil or dip them into a pond and notice the sensations, see how it feels.
8. Is something in the garden you can taste such as berries, herbs or edible flowers? Do be careful to only eat things you are certain you know!
9. Notice how you feel while wandering in this garden, with all of your senses alive and buzzing. Notice any emotions and feelings that come up, without judgement, just noticing and acknowledging whatever may arise. Then let it go.
10. Just be here. The goal of mindfulness is to stay focused on your present moment experience, not lost in the past or thinking about the future. If your mind wanders as your body roams, if you start getting back to your to-do list and your daily planning and worrying, gently bring your attention back to your experience.
It’s amazing what you notice when you look and feel with intention and awareness.
Happy wandering! Hope you find many treasures.
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