The mind blows like the wind. It is difficult to control and hard to predict. Especially when it is troubled. Our patterns of thought may vary from scattered confusion or wavering indecision to a spiralling into negative thoughts.
At such times, the forests can offer us surprisingly simple ways to control the commotion in our head and turn a storm of thoughts into a gentle breeze. In this article, we introduce you to the concept of forest mediation and offer some interesting examples to help you find your calm.
What is Forest Meditation ?
It is a way of finding calm and balance with the help of nature. It helps us in becoming free of thoughts that trouble us or hinder us. By connecting with nature we are able to find answers to difficult questions and bring clarity to life.
In traditional meditation, we withdraw our senses and focus inward to reach a state of inner peace. While in forest meditation we open our senses to experience the peace that exists in nature and deepen our realization, that we are also a part of nature.
Forest meditation is the act of creating a healing experience for yourself. It is about finding the strength of mountains, the compassion of trees and the wisdom of water. The goal of forest meditation is to grow as a person. Above all, it is a journey that creates lasting peace and serenity.
How is it different from traditional meditation?
Many people find it difficult to sit in one place with awareness. The mind is filled with multiple thoughts and the harder one tries to resist, the more they persist.
People who are generally restless or overactive find traditional meditation very hard. Also if one’s mind is already in a state of unrest, or one is going through a troublesome situation in life, it is necessary to calm the thoughts and feelings before one can learn to slow down the thoughts and deepen their focus.
Psychologist Edward Thorndike pointed out that it is not the work expended in the administrative details of an office setting or the algebra in a schoolhouse per se that causes mental fatigue; it is the high energy cost of “inhibiting the tendencies to think of other things.” In other words, mental fatigue was being amplified by firing up the areas of the brain that are required to put the brakes on distracting thoughts.
Forest meditation walks
Start your nature walk by setting an intention for the walk. It helps in channelizing one’s awareness and energies in the right direction.
Be silent. Go slow. Think less. Feel more.
In the first half of the walk use your sense of sight, sound, or smell to bring your thoughts to the present moment. Notice the nature around you and try to find things that fill your heart with awe and wonder.
In forest meditation, we do not try to inhibit or stop any negative thoughts. Instead, we take the help of nature to replace them with positive thoughts, insights, and inspiration.
Creating a relationship with the forest.
Once you are feeling calmer, find a place that calls out to you and sit in silence, observing the world around you. Notice the relationships that exist in nature and the interconnectedness of everything around you. Keep your thoughts in the present moment and learn what nature has to teach us.
Here are a few examples of some forest meditations you could try, the next time you plan to visit a forest or any green space in nature. There is no time limit or rigid rules. Find your own rhythm and choose what feels natural to you. Every person has a unique connection with nature. We hope you find yours.
Time Travel: Find a big rock or an old tree and rest against it. Imagine traveling far back in time and reliving all the experiences from the perspective of the rock or tree.
Gratitude Walk: Find something in nature that fills you with gratitude. Stay with the feeling for as long as you can.
Nature Sponge: As you walk in the forest, imagine every pore in your skin is receiving the sounds of nature just like your ears. Absorb all the sounds like a sponge.
World within worlds: Look closely at the tiny world of insects, grass, and small plants that often pass unnoticed under our feet. Find something unique and unexpected. What message, insight and learning do they have for you?
Circle of Awareness: Sit in a beautiful spot. Create a tiny circle of awareness around you. Become aware of all the beauty in the circle. Slowly expand the circle of awareness to include a larger area. Repeat, until you reach the edge of your imagination.
Dissolving: While sitting at a vantage point which offers a scenic vista, eat a fruit or a piece of mint candy slowly. As the mint dissolves in your mouth, imagine you are dissolving into the forest. In the end, only the forest remains.
Connect with nature. Find your calm.
Forest meditation benefits
For centuries people have turned to the forest for meditation and insights. While the primary objective is for self enquiry and reaching a deeper state of awareness, meditation in general has a whole list of benefits for our day to day lives. Here are some of the important ones.
- Learn to switch off unwanted thoughts.
- How to feel less angry, anxious and sad.
- Increase self worth and confidence.
- Overcome fear, self doubt and a wavering mind.
- Avoid stress and burnout.
- How to get better sleep and rest.
- Strengthen the ability to control cravings, give up addictions.
- Find peace and happiness in the present moment.
- Improve relationships.
- Find answers for important questions and decisions.
An important point to note is that the experience of forest meditation is always unique for each individual. It depends on what stage of your journey you are. Just like the journey of a river that starts with a small murmuring brook, tumbles down through waterfalls into a serene winding river and finally empties into the vast ocean. And then the cycle continues. It can be the same with your thoughts when you meditate.
Having specific expectations of experiences from meditation can hinder one’s progress. The greatest joy of forest meditation lies in accepting the changing nature within and without, and becoming aware of the laws of nature that bind us and the universe in an everlasting embrace.
A FEW MORE FOREST MEDITATIONS
Perspectives: See as far as you can. Observe things as if you are seeing them for the first time. Observe things as if you are seeing them for the last time.
Points of Light: This is an exercise in creative visualisation. Imagine every living being in the forest as a point of golden light. As you walk in the forest, imagine walking through a field of light. Visualise all the lights forming connections and interacting with each other as well as the light within you.
Sound Map: Take around 10 pebbles in your hand and find a peaceful place to sit. Focus on any one sound from nature. Place a pebble on the ground in the direction from which the sound emanates. Close your eyes and stay with the sound until your mind wanders or the sound stops. Do this until you finish all the pebbles in your hand. By the end of this exercise you would have a small circle of pebbles around you, mapping the various sounds of the forest.
The sounds of nature are a beautiful form of relaxation as well as meditation. Here’s a link to nature sounds compiled from around the world by professional sound recordists. http://www.naturesoundmap.com/
Metta Forest Walk: Metta meditation is a very simple but deep meditation which involves sending out loving kindness into the world. The forest version of this meditation involves focusing on your breath. With every breath you exhale, send out love and warmth to the forest. With every breath you inhale, imagine the forest multiplying and returning your love back to you. You may also choose different emotions such as peace, calm, compassion depending on your own mood and liking. This meditation will expand your emotional boundaries and build a deep bond with nature.
Leaving you with a short forest meditation film. We hope you enjoyed this post. Please share it with those may find it of help.
Everyone understands the benefits of meditation, but very few people actually try it or give up too easily. In a world that is getting increasingly crowded, competitive and complex it has become even more important to take care of our state of mind.
If you have any questions or suggestions for forest meditations, do add them in the comment box below to create a space for shared learning. The idea is to learn from each other and share our experiences from different forests around the world. To get a monthly newsletter with new learning please sign up at this link.