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Playing Mindfully in the Great Outdoors

Playing Mindfully in the Great Outdoors
When people have time off from school or work, they often have the impulse to go outside. Sometimes people love to just sit out in the sun and relax, and other times they like to have adventures through hiking, swimming, boating, golfing and the like. When they do this, I think they reconnect with their inner child and feel release from their adult responsibilities. We call this “recreation” because going outside to play really does re-create us. In the outdoors, we can rejuvenate and renew our lives.

But people tend to think of this as wasted time, not really important for progress toward our goals in life. This does not have to be true, however, especially if you use your outdoor time in a meditative way and as part of your general personal growth program. If you approach your time outdoors in the right way, you can use that time to grow your soul and to connect to vast cosmic energies. Here are a few ways you can make that happen the next time you go outside.

Heaven-Earth Connection

One important phrase from the Chun Bu Kyung, an ancient spiritual text, is “chun ji in.” Literally translated, it means “heaven earth human.” The phrase reflects the fact that humans have a special role here on earth that is a bit different than that of the other animals that inhabit our planet: we humans are both spiritual and physical beings. This philosophy is reflected in the fact that our feet are on the ground, connected to the earth, while our head remains higher in the air, in contact with the heavens.

To help develop your sense of heaven-earth connection, try to focus on that when you are out in nature. For example, when you go out hiking, try to feel the energy of the earth coming up through your feet and the energy of heaven coming into your head.

You can also use your palms, which are especially sensitive to energy. As you walk, hold your palms facing the ground and feel the vibrations coming up from the earth. You can also turn them slowly toward other things in the environment, perhaps to feel the energy of the trees in a forest or the water in a babbling brook.

If you don’t have time or are not able to go out and hike, you can try this seated anywhere in the outdoors. For example, in your backyard or at a park, try sitting on a bench or lawn chair, and then remove your shoes and place your bare feet directly on the ground. Close your eyes and place your palms facing upward on your thighs and keep your back nice and straight as you feel energy touching your palms and entering the top of your head. If you try doing this regularly, as a normal part of your meditation practice, you will feel much more relaxed and in greater contact with the energies of nature.

Opening Your Senses

Because our modern world is full of so much sensory input, our senses tend to shut down to a certain degree. This must happen, or else we will become overwhelmed with everything in our modern technological environment. But, when you’re out in nature, this is the perfect time to relax and let all your senses reawaken.

Often, our senses lose sensitivity and the ability to distinguish subtle sounds, textures, and smells. So, when you play in the outdoors, give yourself some time to take it all in. Through your eyes, try to notice how the sunlight changes throughout the day and how it interacts with objects in the environment. Perhaps you will notice how colors change as the sun sets or the way the sunlight shines through the leaves and onto the ground.

Try also to notice the smells that come and go as you pass through nature. When you come across a grove of pine trees, can you smell the pine needles? Can you smell the damp earth underneath and the moss growing on the boulders?

When you stop to rest, try noticing the textures around you. Feel the textures of different kinds of rocks—smooth pebbles, glassy stones, and rough boulders. As you walk, notice how the texture of the ground changes as you pass from one area to the next.

Open your ears to all the sounds that surround you, too. Can you hear all the different kinds of birds in the trees, singing and chattering to one another, and can you hear the breeze passing through the trees and rushing through the canyons?

Even your sense of taste can be engaged. When you’re at the ocean, perhaps you can taste the sea salt in the air, or, when in the forest, you can take in the herbal taste that lingers in the air.

There is no right or wrong thing for you to sense. Just open your senses and see what you discover.

Being with Each Other

Lastly, when out in nature with other people, learn to be with them truly. Set aside your preconceived ideas about who they are and what you expect them to do. In nature, they too are freer to be themselves, so encourage them to relax and be free.

Experiencing nature together can be a wonderful time to have a heart-to-heart talk about the nature of life and the universe, which is valuable, but I also encourage you to be quiet with each other. While hiking with someone or sitting around a campfire, try to have some quiet time together where you can just feel each other’s heart. This will help you both come down out of your head, into your bodies, and into your most authentic selves.

No matter how much time you spend in nature, even if you spend very little and spend most of your day sitting at your desk, you are a part of nature. But, going outdoors occasionally can remind you of who you are while also expanding your consciousness. So, I encourage you to go outside and play.

Written by Ilchi Lee
A visionary, educator, author, and founder of ChangeYourEnergy.com, Ilchi Lee has spent nearly three decades helping people create better lives for themselves. Lee has created Body & Brain Yoga, Brain Education, and hundreds of other wellness programs and methods. A model for the self-improvement he teaches, Ilchi Lee is continually changing and continually creative. Keep up with Ilchi Lee on his blog at http://www.ilchi.com.
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