Meditation Garden: Ideas, Elements, Insights

Meditation Garden

How to create your own meditation garden and learn a variety of engaging garden meditations. Make an island of calm that you can return to, whenever you need.

Our city lives are slowly swallowing up our nature spaces and nature time. Even our interactions with other people are largely shifting to electronic screens. There is an increasing gap between our inner need for a true connection  and our actual reality. Especially in these times of isolation and uncertainty we can observe growing signs of loneliness, anxiety, and depression in our society.

So what’s a simple and effective way to restore our connection with life  and imbibe the healing benefits of nature. With our homes becoming our sanctuary, we can all bring a slice of calm, beauty, and joy into our lives through meditation gardens

A true meditation garden is not about the space you have on ground, rather it is about creating the relation between your mind and your garden.

Small Meditation Garden
Small Meditation Garden

WHAT IS A MEDITATION GARDEN?

A meditation garden is an island of tranquility which allows you to connect with nature and with yourself. Living in a sea of turbulence, it offers you a space to plant seeds of peace, hope, wonder, and joy within you. With a few simple nature elements you can transform any garden into a meditation garden or create a new one from an inviting earth.

The heart of a meditation garden, beyond its visual appeal and the calming aesthetics is the thought, practice, and care which goes into connecting with your garden.

In this post we cover:

  • Beautiful ideas to create your own meditation garden.
  • Meditation garden elements that can enhance your experience.
  • Philosophy behind their use.
  • Inspiration and examples of meditation gardens.
  • Some simple but powerful garden meditations. 
  • Origin of meditation gardens.
  • Benefits of garden meditations.
Meditation Garden Elements

MEDITATION IN THE GARDEN

Event though different cultures and countries adopt different approaches, the basic idea remains the same – to create a sense of peace and serenity. Working with your garden to bring out these emotions is a deep meditation in itself. There are many nature elements that can become a part of your meditation in the garden. The real art comes in creating balance and harmony between the different elements. Elements which convey the essence of nature and serve as a gateway to calm and clarity. The design elements should be simple, natural, and low maintenance.

Here is our list of recommendations, but feel free to add your thoughts and suggestions in the comments section below.

Meditation Garden Rocks

ROCKS
Rocks are storytellers of time. Sitting quietly in their corner, with stories tucked away in their folds and shapes. Those who have the patience to sit with them can journey in time and space.  Their selection, size, shape and placement in relation to each other is very important. The rocks can give you an appearance of islands, valleys, and mountains – transporting you to different worlds.

WATER
Adding water adds movement, stillness, and reflection to your garden. The sight and sound of flowing water is intrinsically soothing and meditative. An ecologically conscious choice to save water is to use a tiny fountain that you can turn on, as and when required. A simpler and friendlier option to incorporate the water element is to have a vessel with clear water in it. Even a small vessel can hold the entire sky in it.

Meditation Garden Fountain

LAND
The lifeblood of your garden is the soil and earth it rests on. Interactions with the earth have a deep healing effect. Antidepressant microbes in soil result in the production of higher levels of serotonin in our body and lift our moods. Walking barefoot and working with the soil is a great meditation in itself. Bonus Tip: Having a composting unit, that turns your leaf litter into compost is a great addition to any garden. In nature nothing goes waste, and the process of transformation from waste to life-giving compost, is nourishing for the garden and filled with beautiful life-lessons for you. When life gives you crap – compost it.

LIFE
The plants that you choose to be a part of your garden create the character of your space. Combining plants that grow to different heights and form layers creates a beautiful image of a tiny forest. It leads to an optimal use of space and is beneficial for the plants themselves. Other important factors to consider are color, texture, fragrance, and form. Native plants are the best choice for your garden. They are low in maintenance and will attract a lot of native birds, butterflies, and bees.

Zen Garden Birds

PATHS
Creating contours and curves in your garden has a relaxing effect on your mind. It is a sharp contrast to the straight lines of our houses, cars, and offices. You can consider adding meandering paths and labyrinths for slow mindful walks.

YOU
The secret ingredient of any meditation garden is you. Creating a small bench or a place to sit and contemplate in peace, forms an essential cornerstone of the garden. You can also place certain objects or statues that bring you peace of mind.  Another addition could be baritone wind chimes or meditation bells for gentle sound.

All these elements are a starting point for your creativity. Space and balance are very important, as is motion and tranquility. Add in lots of flow and elements that can help you focus in the right state of mind. Start small and let the garden evolve, first in your mind and then on the ground.

Meditation garden bench


MEDITATION GARDEN IDEAS

Given below is a slideshow of some ideas and design inspirations for meditation gardens from different corners of the world. It is just a reference, to observe the use of different elements. Click on the arrows to scroll through. Notice the emotion in each.

Image Credits: Liam Read. Karen Oeu. Ewan Hutchinson. Jeff Finley. Fezbot. David Wirzba. Hideki Nishiyama. Note Thanun. Cover image: Cody Weaver. | Unsplash

5 GARDEN MEDITATIONS

Having a meditation garden and not knowing how to meditate with it is like having a car and not knowing how to drive. While someone else can drive the car for us, but only we can meditate for ourselves. Given below are some simple garden meditations. You can find many more throughout our website. (find your calm here)

The first stumbling block for beginners is trying to set a goal or desired outcome for your meditation. Instead, the meditation becomes far more effective if we learn to simply enjoy the process. One can think of garden meditations as spending time with a close friend. Without any effort. Without any pretense.

  • 5 Garden Meditations

A free download link of these 5 garden meditations is given at the end of this post.

Each one of us will have our own unique way of meditating in the garden. But the precious insights we find, will connect us to something that’s universal.

“There is random love in the universe. Some of it is unconditional. Some of it is for you.”

Auburn Sandstorm


MEDITATION GARDENS ORIGIN

Historians estimate that the first gardens came to life about 10,000 B.C. – along overgrown river banks and the wet foothills of monsoon regions in India and Asia. By cordoning off places for personal use, these gardens were primarily “forest gardens”. They were used as a source for food and a protection barrier. Much later, with the emergence of the first civilizations, wealthy influential leaders in societies began to create gardens purely for aesthetic purposes.

Spiritual gardens emerged in Japan in the 8th century CE. The arrangement consisted mainly of of rocks. In the Zen tradition, the gardens served to remind practitioners that life can be elemental, simple. The first Zen gardens were called “zazen-seki”, “meditation rocks” because of their simplicity. The essence was to radiate silence, calm, and tranquility to anyone contemplating them.

In the current day, meditation gardens are present all over the world. The famous public ones being found all the way from Kyoto (Japan) to Glasgow (Scotland) and San Francisco (USA). But public meditation gardens are more of tourist attractions. To get the most authentic experience of a meditation garden you have to create one. The process of creating your own meditation garden, is the real meditation.

Meditation Garden

GARDEN MEDITATION BENEFITS

Within our hyperactive lives, spending even a few contemplative moments can lead to a wide range of benefits. Gardens across history and geography – over different periods of time and different cultures tell us that humans have always found aid and assistance through their gardens.

Meditation gardens are an effective way to clear your head, get grounded, and gain strength in this hyperactive, chaotic modern world. They can even help physically by lowering blood pressure, strengthening the immune system, improving general brain function, and lessening pain & inflammation.

Scientists have found that spending two hours a week in nature is linked to better health and well-being. The National Health Service in United Kingdom has prescribed time in nature and community gardening projects as part of “green prescriptions”. In Shetland for example, islanders with depression and anxiety may be given “nature prescriptions”, with doctors there recommending walks and activities that allow people to connect with the outdoors. (Source)


“Gardens are our teachers. There is a gardener in all of us, especially when tragedy is at our doorstep.”

Robert Fox
Meditation Garden Statue

In Nature things change with time. So will your garden, as will you. We hope these changes become a part of your learning journey and sow seeds of positive transformation across your life.

Do you have a meditation garden tip for us? Add it in the comments for all the other readers. To know more about the Healing Forest project, you can visit our homepage. Subscribe to our monthly newsletter and get new ideas and articles in your inbox once a month: Subscribe link.

Download 5 garden meditation posters. We hope you liked this post. Please do share it in your circles with those who may find it of help.

RESILIENCE Examples and Stories | What Rivers Know

Let the rivers of the world show you how to be resilient in life. Dive in, as we share inspiring examples and stories of resilience from the rivers.

Resilience is the ability to withstand adversity and bounce back from difficult life events. Being resilient does not mean that people don’t experience stress, emotional upheaval, and suffering. Rather it is an inner trait which helps them adapt to the changing situation and keep moving forward.

Floating down the river of time, each one of us will meet our own set of obstacles, hurdles and difficulties. How we overcome them or deal with them is based on our resilience. Here’s a list of some interesting ideas for navigating through the challenges that life may brings us.

SHORTCUTS:
Stories and examples of resilience from Central America | Tibet | Peru | Egypt | U.S.-Mexico | Resilience Film

1. Resilience Example: A Story from the Past

The ancient, abandoned Mayan city of Tikal is a famous site in Central America. Its huge structures – some of which are over 70 meters high – show that the Mayans must have been supremely powerful and wealthy. But despite this wealth and dominance, Mayan civilization collapsed and its cities were left to crumble. Its downfall was self-inflicted.

Resilience Example
pic by: Jimmy Baum

As the city of Tikal grew more wealthy, its population started to grow quickly. Faced with more mouths to feed, the Mayan leaders reacted by clearing the surrounding forests to create farmland for crops. While this might have brought more food in the short term, in the long run it brought huge environmental pressures. The damage was twofold. Firstly, the erosion left the fields less fertile as the nutrients in the soil were washed away. Secondly, soil was washed into nearby rivers, clogging up irrigation systems. This led to a drought that withered crops.

The rivers are the lifeblood of civilisations, but in the race for power, fame, glory, we often forget to take care of important things. Instead of finding ways to grow more food sustainably, the Mayan leaders spent time and resources on building ever more expensive monuments to themselves and on waging war with rivals. The wars and the wasting of energy helped to quicken the decline begun by the damage to the environment. Together these factors brought a once powerful society to its knees.

INSIGHT: When faced with a crisis, we have to focus on the essential. By safeguarding the things which nourish us, feed us and help us grow, we can get through hard times. What are the things that constitute the rivers in your life? What are the things you must protect and preserve at all costs?

Source of Story: Collapse by Jared Diamond.

HOW TO BE RESILIENT?

Resilience is how you recharge not how you endure. We normally believe that resilience depends on strength. This is only half true. It is the lack of recovery period which depletes our resilience. Not being able to rest weakens the mind, and erodes our health. Overwork, overstimulation, poor sleep affects us deeply. Losing our resilience leads to burnout and worse.
So what’s the key to resilience?

Trying hard. Recharging. Trying again.
A river will stop flowing if it is not recharged.
It’s the same for humans.

Learning to be resilient requires wisdom and courage, foresight and willpower. The river insights in this article are a way to travel into your mind. We cover many stories and examples that will take you on a journey within. An enquiry, which leads you to discover your own path to resilience. Finding answers to the questions at the end of each section will create a map of resilience for your life. *The short resilience film at the end of this post, is a gift from the rivers. An uplifting message from a beautiful mountain stream.

“Be like water making its way through cracks. Do not be assertive, but adjust to the object, and you shall find a way around or through it. If nothing within you stays rigid, outward things will disclose themselves.”

~ Bruce Lee

2. Resilience Example: A Story from Nature

Resilience Story

The Yarlung Tsangpo river is known as the roof of the world and is the highest river in the world. The river is often called as the “Everest of Rivers” because of its extreme conditions and lofty elevation. The average elevation being about 4000 meters, Yarlung Tsangpo starts from the Angsi Glacier in Tibet and runs across Tibet, India and then meets The Bay of Bengal. It has to navigate its way through multiple mountain ranges. While leaving the Tibetan Plateau, the river forms the world’s largest and deepest canyon, Yarlung Tsangpo Grand Canyon which is much longer than the Grand Canyon. The Yarlung Tsangpo is certainly one among the most unusual and inspiring rivers of the world.

INSIGHT: The river is stronger than the mountain. The way of the river, ever searching, ever flowing, always finds its path around the obstacle. In the flow of the river one can observe its true strength. Drawn by its pull to the sea, aided by gravity, every river seeks out its path and sometimes even creates it. These canyons are beautiful pieces of geographical art which serve as a reminder, that in nature, water cuts rock. What constitutes your strength in life? What are the values that you can rely on, to keep you flowing?

The same thinking can also be applied for building resilience to overcome negative habits. To change a habit, substitute the behaviour with a positive habit which creates a similar reward. That’s why the golden rule for quitting any habit is this: don’t try to resist the craving; redirect it.

3. Resilience Example: A Story of Change

The spirit of the river is the spirit of an explorer. When you stand next to a river, its path doesn’t seem to move. But this series of satellite images of Peru’s Ucayali River — featured in Google Timelapse project — reveals something pretty remarkable.

Over the course of fewer than 20 years, its path crawls back and forth, carving out deeper and deeper curves before cutting them off and starting over. All rivers naturally change their path over time, but this one forms meanders (the technical name for these curves) at an especially fast rate, due to the speed of the water, the amount of sediment in it, and the surrounding landscape.

INSIGHT: The key insight here is that, to build our resilience we need to work on our ability to explore. Exploration enables you to grow as a person. It challenges us to overcome our fears and anxieties. It’s how we learn more about the world. The second part is internal. It comes down to creating an understanding of the world through abstract thought. It’s the desire to learn new information and discover new ideas. People who seek out unfamiliar information and experiences, also tend to be intuitive, empathetic, and richer in their emotions. What are your sources of inspiration and motivation? Who can you turn to for advice and new insights?

Resilience is our capacity to change. It’s a positive state that is resourceful, adaptable and energised. Unlike bouncing back and coping, states that can be quite draining over the long term, or grit, that can be rigid and isolating, resilience is a place of high creativity and flexibility.

~Anise Bullimore, Resilience Coach

4. Resilience Example: A Story of Floods

The River Nile is about 6,670 km (4,160 miles) in length and is the longest river in the world. The Nile receives its name from the Greek Neilos, which means a valley or river valley. In Egypt, the River Nile creates a fertile green valley across a barren harsh desert. It was this gift of the river that allowed one of the oldest civilizations in the world to flourish. The ancient Egyptians lived and farmed along the Nile, using the soil to produce food for themselves and their animals. 

Resilience example 2

Regular as sun and moon, in the middle of burning summer, without a drop of rain in sight, when all other rivers on earth were drying up, for no apparent reason at all, the Nile rose out of its bed every year, and for three months embraced all of Egypt in a flood. The people’s happiness or misery depended upon the annual flood. (Uncover the source of this mystery here.)

Generally floods are seen as a form of natural disaster creating loss and damage. But in the life cycle of a river they play an important role. Flood waters carry nutrient-rich sediments which restore the fertility of the land. Floodplains are beneficial for wildlife by creating a variety of habitats for fish and other animals. In addition, floodplains are important because of storage and conveyance, protection of water quality, and recharge of groundwater.

MEDITATION: In life, there are some floods that one cannot avoid. However being well prepared for it and knowing how to manage the flood can help us strengthen our resilience. What are the floods that you can be prepared for? What gifts are you meant to receive from them? What is their role in your personal growth

5. Resilience Example: A Story of Rebirth

Colorado Delta, was once one of the most biologically diverse desert aquatic ecosystems on the planet. Paddling the delta in 1922, naturalist Aldo Leopold was entranced by the flourishing world beyond the tip of his canoe. “Verdant walls of mesquite and willow . . . a hundred green lagoons,” he wrote. “The river was everywhere and nowhere.”

Resilience Story 2
Pic by: Pete McBride, U.S. Geological survey

But things have changed since then. By the time the Colorado reaches Mexico, nearly 90 percent of its water has been siphoned off for farms and cities. For the most part, the delta has been reduced to a desiccated wasteland, dominated by invasive tamarisk trees and discarded trash. 

In the spring of 2014 an experimental pulse of water was released into the Colorado Delta. It was an experiment to see what would happen and whether it was possible to  regenerate habitat. What people witnessed was something extraordinary. 

Within a couple days of being wetted by the pulse flow, billions of tiny copepods had hatched. Some were now feeding on algae along the river’s fringe. Dragonflies eat copepods, and they flew into hunt. Carp coming down the river were feeding on the dragonflies and fish larvae were also eating the copepods. The water’s life-giving effects spilled beyond the river’s banks. Kids who’d never seen it in its natural channel splashed and played. Spontaneous festivals came to life. Birds returned, and trees and marshes greened up.

MEDITATION: Nature has an inbuilt resilience. Things which appear to be dead are merely dormant and spring back to life once the conditions are right. It gives us hope that in the river of time, no matter how difficult the circumstances, we just have to wait for the water of life to come back and restore our fragile but precious sense of aliveness. How can you build your patience and reserves of energy? How can you connect with nature to understand its laws better?

6. Resilience Example: A River Story

Film Credits: Film- Nitin Das | Music- Chris Haugen |Additional Footage- GreenHub | Production- Colorcaravan | Research: HBR Blog | *Please view in fullscreen mode with sound.

The river is not just a body of water flowing into the sea. It is a complex ecosystem. A set of relationship between the water and the many beings whose lives are linked with its flow. A variety of plants, animals, insects, microorganisms, and the river form a web of life which supports and nourishes each other’s life cycle. The influence of the river’s water extends far beyond its observed edges.

INSIGHT: It is difficult to say where the river begins and where its boundary ends. Similarly, our resilience is codependent on the resilience of other people in our lives. It is also dependent on the resilience of the environment we live in. Who can you turn to, for support in tough times? What are the places that you can go to recharge yourself? And more importantly, who can you support when they are going through a tough time?

Resilience is a quality that can be learnt and strengthened. By finding spaces that rejuvenate us, and sharing it with others in their time of need, we are building our own resilience and also creating a resilient support network.

Rivers are stronger than mountains

In these challenging times, it has become essential for all of us to guard our mental health. In case you enjoyed this post, do try our Nature Calm course and find new ways to grow your resilience.

The twists and turns of life affect us in many ways. Therefore, learning to take control of our own wellbeing is an important skill. Let’s discover how to find peace, purpose and resilience with the help of nature. We share the best ideas and practices from around the world. Subscribe to our blog and receive a free newsletter with new ideas and articles in your inbox, once every month.

Which is your favourite river? And what has it taught you? Do add your thoughts in the comments below so that we can grow our collective knowledge. Please share this post with friends, so that it reaches where it’s needed.


Nature Insight – Wisdom to grow in life

Nature insight is the meditative art of finding wisdom from our natural world. By observing and understanding the ways of nature and its myriad life forms we can draw beautiful insights that help us grow in life. Through nature we learn invaluable lessons that one can apply at work, in relationships, and in life.

Insight learning is defined as the capacity to gain an accurate and deep understanding of someone or something. It is a fascinating process of the human mind to transform what is observed in the outer world into a simple idea that expands our inner world exponentially. Here’s a selection of some thoughtful nature insights, and pointers on how to create new ones for yourself. Don’t miss the illuminating poem at the very end.

Grow your life with nature

The most fundamental drive for all life forms is growth. To expand, replicate and evolve. In more poetic terms we call it ‘love‘. The love to live, survive and thrive. The love to grow in life.

The beauty of these insights rests in the idea that each one of us finds not only what we are looking for, but also what we are ready for. Nature adapts its lessons to suit our unique individual needs.

So, what will you find? What will you learn? Step into the world of infinite mystery.

Nature insight
Image by @ReynaXochipaMo

Nature Insight from the Forest

“We are proud of what makes us different. It is the key to the strength of the forest. Our value is based on what makes us different. You know what? Like you, we care about our own. We slow down our growth, absorb less water and capture fewer nutrients to care for the young ones. So they can have more resources and food. So they can grow strong and healthy. But we don’t limit ourselves to our own family. Our neighbours are the fungi, lichens and other organisms of the forest. We are connected by the sky, the earth and the breath.

Together, we are a huge network where we share and we co-operate. Where we all depend on each other. If one of us suffers from an attack or illness, we warn others so that they can be prepared. The bigger trees share their wisdom with the younger ones, so that they are not afraid of the future and embrace decisively the changes of the seasons and the uncertainties of nature. If one of us falls, we join forces to nurture it, so that it can continue to be part of the forest. There is no such thing as loneliness among us.”

INSIGHT: Humans have focused for so long on finding out what makes individuals different that we have forgotten what unites everyone. If people would stop to listen to the forests, what would they say? Perhaps they would tell us about community resilience, about cooperation, about finding strength in differences and about how to live in the present. Perhaps they would also remind us of all the things we have in common with them, that we share the same home and are strongly interconnected. But surely the most important thing of all is that they make us question life and how we are choosing to live.

*Credits: Andrea | Inspiration: Suzzane Simard

Nature Insight forest

Nature Insight from the Sunflower

During the growing season, the young sunflowers rotate their bright yellow heads during the day to track the sun’s movement across the sky. They reset overnight, swinging their face back to the east. This means the plants likely follow an internal rhythm. Researchers found that during the day, genes click on causing the east-facing half of the stem to grow. The lengthening stem causes the flower head to slowly bend to the west during the day. At night, genes causing the west side of the stem to grow activate, causing the head to flip back to the east.

When the plant fully matures, it faces permanently east, which benefits the aging bloom as well. The researchers found that east-facing flowers heat up more quickly in the morning, attracting five times as many pollinators as west-facing blooms. This find supports previous studies, which suggest that bees and other pollinators prefer warmer flowers in the morning.

INSIGHT: Nature works in rhythms. As individuals we all have internal body clocks with their own particular rhythms. The more we learn about our bodies, the more it seems that standardised time is badly suited to our individual needs. Our internal rhythm changes with age as well as the seasons. The truth is, we all differ when it comes to our best working hours, the amount of sleep we need, and the right times for meals. It makes sense, therefore, to pay very close attention to our own personal rhythms and build a suitable schedule around them.

*Source: Smithsonian Magazine | Insight by: Julia Hobsbawm

Nature Insight Sunflower

Nature Insight from the Monkeys

In old age, people begin to consider what was important in their lives and ask whether they achieved something. But what moves people during the course of their lives and why do they act as they do?

Until 1949, it was assumed that human and animal behaviour was controlled by inner drives and exterior motivations. Then professor of psychology Harry Harlow made a discovery that disproved this theory: He gave eight Rhesus monkeys a mechanical puzzle. Since the primates would receive neither food nor praise if they solved the puzzle, he was convinced they would not concern themselves with it. However, the monkeys gave it a go, recognised how it worked, and, without any exterior incentives, solved it with great enjoyment. Such behaviour is also typical for us humans.

INSIGHT: When a person finds a job fulfilling, no further reward is necessary. Merely the joy of being able to program an application or to publish recipes on the internet for other people to benefit from is, frequently, motivation enough.

Striving to change something in oneself and in society is a much healthier and satisfying impetus. For more and more people, such meaningful goals have become their main driving force. People who pursue meaning in their lives want to give something back to society – which, in turn, also gives them personal strength

*Credits: Daniel Pink | Author of Drive

Nature Insight from the Sea otter

In different ecosystems there exist keystone species which hold the habitat together. If they are removed the entire habitat will fall apart. For example, sea otters, impact other predators as well as other animal and plant species farther down the food chain. When sea otters disappear from an area, the population of creatures it once hunted can explode, pushing out other organisms and reducing species diversity.

INSIGHT: Similarly to the keystone species, in our lives we have keystone habits. Simple rituals that affect all the other areas of our life as well as our wellbeing. One such keystone habit is keeping our connection with nature alive. Humans have evolved in the midst of nature. Staying connected with it yields a host of benefits for our mind and body.

Nature Insight Sea Otter

Nature Insight from the Clouds

In appearance we think we are subject to birth and death, but when we look deeply into something like a cloud, we know that it is impossible for a cloud to die. A cloud can never die. To die means from something you become nothing. From someone you become no one. But a cloud cannot become nothing. A cloud can become the rain, the snow, the mist but never nothing. So the true nature of the cloud is no birth and no death and our nature is also the same. And when we have enough concentration and insight we touch our true nature of no birth and no death. It frees us from all kinds of fear. Fear of being and fear of non-being.

NATURE FACT: The earth’s atmosphere is a very cloudy place.  NASA’s Earth Observatory estimates that at any given time, around 67% of Earth’s surface is covered by cloud. Across cultures clouds can have very different meanings, in the UK they tend to have a relatively negative symbolism, for instance, a cloud on the horizon means something bad is going to happen. However in Iran, clouds are considered as very lucky, so it would be a blessing to say ‘your sky is always filled with clouds.’

*Credits: Thích Nhất Hạnh | Source for Cloud facts.

Nature insight clouds

Insight Learning from Nature

Insight learning is a type of learning that happens spontaneously, like a flash of lightening amidst dark thunderclouds. Your brain is capable of making unexpected connections and understanding larger truths about life when it is given the right conditions. Such a state of mind can happen very easily when you are in nature.

However, in the rigour of our day-to-day life, we can get so caught up in the external world that our inner growth takes a backseat. Material growth which is not supported by inner growth can never give us lasting peace and satisfaction. Also, to overcome unusual challenges and complex problems we have to search for answers within. That is why, Insight learning can be a very helpful tool.

The basic elements of creating new insights are: awe, wonder & curiosity. Feelings which give rest to our rational, thinking mind. Nature is a store house of such untold treasures and that’s why it yields so many precious insights. Let’s learn to grow our mind, heart and spirit with nature.

Nature Insight from humans

The lives of forests and humans are intricately linked. This delicate relationship has become even more critical in the modern world. While one set of people are rapidly destroying our remaining forests, there are many conscious individuals, who have committed their lives to conserving old forests and creating new ones.

This film was created to support one such group: Forest First Samithi. Every year we partner with a small organisation doing exceptional work, to highlight their initiative, share their insights and inspire other humans. Please visit their website to learn more. http://forestfirstsamithi.org/

In case you found the post interesting, try our Nature Calm course to go on a learning journey with nature. Explore some amazing ideas and find insights that will aid you through your life.

The insights and ideas in our blog keep evolving with time. Just like all things in nature. To get fresh ideas in your inbox, please subscribe to our monthly newsletter. Click here to subscribe.

If you are reading this, chances are that you may already have a deep connection with nature and it has taught you some invaluable lessons. Do add your nature insights in the comments section to grow our collective knowledge. Feel free to share this post with others, just as nature shares its wisdom with you.

Nature Insight Poem

Regulating Emotions – Tips from Nature

If you could change one thing to transform your life what would it be? What if it was your own mind? Learning to train your mind starts with learning to regulate your emotions. It’s because they affect your thoughts, your choices and also the people you attract into your lives.

Our emotions design our experience of life.

Managing our emotions and moods is one of the most difficult but essential skills in life. Those who can achieve it know the secret of leading richer lives with greater success, harmony and more fulfilling relationships.

*During the pandemic, a lot of people are going through a sea of emotions. In these testing times, maintaining our mental balance is as important as protecting our physical health. Through this article we share some helpful tips. If you find them useful, please share them forward. And feel free to add your thoughts and ideas in the comments to grow our collective knowledge.

Just like the virus, our moods are also contagious. Let’s learn spread some calm and hope.

WHAT IS EMOTIONAL REGULATION?

Emotional regulation is the ability to handle both the highs and lows of emotions. Generally speaking, the extremes of any emotion can have an adverse effect on us. Therefore, we need to become aware of our emotional environment. And because our emotions are constantly changing, we can learn to transform them, change their intensity and also choose how we react to them.

Going through the circus of life we often encounter situations and people that completely throw our mood off. Anger, sadness, anxiety and other bad moods are like uninvited guests. By taking up our head space, they take away our freedom and pull us down. Understanding how emotions work can show us how to train the mind and transform those bad moods even if you can’t avoid them.

The emotional center of our brain – the limbic system, is an open loop system. An open-loop system depends on external sources to manage itself. In simpler terms, we rely a lot on our environment and connections with other people to determine our moods. We have evolved in this way because it increases our chances of survival. It helps humans form relationships, protect and care for their loved ones and also find environments that were safe to live in and thrive in.

Even though the open loop is so much a part of our lives, we usually don’t notice the process. So how can we use this to our advantage? The link between our inner nature and outer nature gives us a wonderful tool to shape our emotions.

The format that we cover in this post is based on the Japanese concept of Shinrin-yoku or Forest Bathing. It is a well researched and highly effective practice and has a host of other benefits besides helping you regulate your emotions.
* Forest Bathing Introduction | Forest Therapy in Japan

HOW TO CONTROL YOUR EMOTIONS?

There are many ways to train the mind to control your emotions, but with nature it’s easier. It’s because, our mind has evolved in nature. In this post we will cover 5 stages of learning to control your emotions. The stages help you progress steadily and create a longer lasting effect.

Emotional skills are part of our genetic code, and each one of us has a certain mood that we are more prone to. However, experience also plays a big role in how our personality develops. The more we act a certain way—be it happy, depressed, or cranky—the more the behaviour becomes ingrained in our brain circuitry, and the more we will continue to feel and act that way.

1. The Forest – Knowing what’s possible

Go for a nature walk. Focus on your strongest sense and find something in nature that brings you deep calm. Stay with that emotion as long as you can. Later when you are at home, sit in a quiet space and try to recreate the same emotion by visualising your moment in nature. Practicing this exercise helps us recreate emotions we can fall back on when the need arises.

The basic practice of learning to regulate our emotions begins with observing, accepting and transforming. Many behaviour change programs include Mindfulness as part of the process. By adding nature to mindfulness we can make it far more engaging and effective.

Emotions are absorbed in the body in about six seconds. Each burst of emotion chemicals, from the time it’s produced in the hypothalamus to the time it’s completely broken down and absorbed, lasts about six seconds. If we’re feeling something for longer than six seconds, we are – at some level – choosing to recreate and refuel those feelings. Recognizing what emotion we are feeling, evaluating its purpose, and deciding whether to recreate it, is what emotional intelligence is all about. (source)

2. The Storms – Knowing yourself

Knowing what triggers you will help you in being better prepared. Make a list of people, situations and environments that affect you negatively. Also knowing how you affect others will show you areas that need improvement. Talk to family, friends and colleagues. Take feedback.

Our moods are like the weather – they can create a climate of trust, creativity and growth, or they can spread dark clouds of stress, fear and anxiety. Practice becoming aware of the links between what’s happening around you and what’s happening inside you.

A good mood leads to a good day.

According to scientists, there are 8 primary emotions: joy, sadness, fear, surprise, anger, disgust, acceptance, anticipation. Other important emotions, like ‘love’ are a complex combination of some of these primary emotions. These permutation and combinations give our mind its emotional richness. In nature we work with the emotions of awe and wonder to create joy, serenity, love and even compassion.

3. The Path – Creating an action plan

The effects of nature work in a dose curve. The more time you spend in nature, the better it is for you. Depending on your need and situation, you can design an action plan for lifting your mood when you are down.

Identify special places in nature you have access to. Find landscapes, elements, and activities in nature that you enjoy. It could be sitting next to a stream, lying on the grass, reading under a tree or walking barefoot. Know what works for you and build a plan for training your mind. The deeper your nature experience is, the stronger its effect.

When you are in nature, focus on all your senses. Soak in the sights, sounds and smells. Taste the freshness and feel the textures. Our senses work at a subconscious level. They also help in bringing your awareness to the present moment. Negative thoughts are easier to quell when we bring our attention to a pleasing sensation.

When you are in nature shift from thinking to sensing, and from sensing to simply being.

*For some beautiful ideas, try our Nature Calm course, with a collection of over 100 creative and mindful activities to find your calm.

4. The Cycles – Keeping momentum

Nature works in rhythm… birdsong in the morning, phases of the moon, and cycle of seasons. Interestingly, so does our mind. Create a habit of adding nature into your life. Whether it is the daily ritual spent with your plants and pets, a weekly nature walk, an annual vacation in the forest. Build a rhythm into your life. It keeps you in a good mood and maintains your momentum.

Even if you can’t access nature, simple acts of watching clouds fly by, listening to bird song, feeling the breeze on your skin and many other small ideas can keep you connected to nature.

Creating a momentum helps you break deep rooted emotional patterns which may be difficult to get rid of.

5. The Friends – Creating a community

Our moods affect our relationships deeply. Therefore, community is the most important aspect of your mind training. Remember, our moods are linked to the moods of people in our lives.

Go for a silent nature walk with those you wish to build a deeper connect with. Let nature do all the talking. Close bonds can form between people who allow each other their own space and yet share a beautiful experience together.

Everyone knows the importance of emotional intelligence in life. Most successful people, teams and families have a high level of emotional intelligence. What people don’t realise is that the foundation of this intelligence comes from the ability to regulate emotions. Emotions in ourselves as well as others.

THE EMOTIONS

Our emotions are deeply linked to hormone levels, cardiovascular functions, sleep rhythms, and even immune functions in the body. And strong emotions can even alter these in the body of another. It’s a phenomenon called mood contagion.

Research in intensive care units has shown, for example, that the comforting presence of another person not only lowers the patient’s blood pressure but also slows the secretion of fatty acids that block arteries. Another study found that three or more incidents of intense stress within a year (for example, serious financial trouble, being fired, or a divorce) triples the death rate in socially isolated middle-aged men, but it has no impact on the death rate of men with many close relationships. (Source)

So you see, our emotional health is linked to our mental health, physical health as well as social health.

Changing your mood changes your experience of life.

Creating a deep connection with nature is like growing roots that will keep us stable and anchored in stormy situations. And during calmer times, they will nourish the very essence of our being, helping us enrich other people’s lives with our presence.

May the forest calm always be with you.

We live in a complex world, facing challenges big and small each day. The twists and turns of life affect us in many ways. Therefore, learning to take control of our own wellbeing is an important skill. Discover how to find peace, purpose and good health with the help of nature. We share the best ideas and practices from around the world. Please subscribe to our blog for a monthly newsletter with new ideas.

Do share this post with people who might find it helpful.

Calm Nature – Finding Peace In Difficult Times

Nature Calm

Calm in Nature offers you simple ways to still your mind and recenter your spirit, so that you may deal better with the challenges of life. It’s because finding peace in difficult times is never easy. In this article we will learn from wise masters, established teachers and some poetic seekers. You will find a collection of exceptional meditations that take inspiration from Nature. The cloud, tree, forest, river, ocean, desert, and mountain can all show you the path of finding your calm in nature.

7 Ways to find calm in nature

The very nature of life is to move through cycles of ups and downs. No matter how much we try to predict or control our paths, we are bound to encounter the unexpected. 

With the ongoing pandemic of coronavirus, people across the world are going through testing times. There is uncertainty, anxiety, suffering and loss. Amidst all this, there is also a big need for hope and resilience. Each one of us has to navigate our own journey through this storm. What we can do, is take nature’s help in finding our inner strength and peace. We can grow an awareness that this phase will not last forever. The rainbow at the end of the storm is waiting for us. 

Mountain Calm

The birds have vanished down the sky.
Now the last cloud drains away.
We sit together, the mountain and me,
Until only the mountain remains.
~Li Po
pic by: Daniel Leone

The following excerpt has been taken from Jon Kabat-Zinn’s Mountain Meditation.

Allow the body to be still and sit with a sense of dignity, a sense of resolve, a sense of being complete, whole, in this very moment, with your posture reflecting this sense of wholeness. 

As you sit here, let an image form in your mind’s eye, of the most magnificent or beautiful mountain you know or have seen or can imagine…, let it gradually come into greater focus… and even if it doesn’t come as a visual image, allowing the sense of this mountain and feeling its overall shape, its lofty peak or peaks high in the sky, the large base rooted in the bedrock of the earth’s crust, it’s steep or gently sloping sides… 

Notice how massive it is, how solid, how unmoving, how beautiful, whether from a far or up close…

By becoming the mountain in our meditation practice, we can link up with its strength and stability and adopt them for our own. We can use its energies to support our energy to encounter each moment with mindfulness and equanimity and clarity.

It may help us to see that our thoughts and feelings, our preoccupations, our emotional storms and crises, even the things that happen to us are very much like the weather on the mountain. We tend to take it all personally, but its strongest characteristic is impersonal. 

The weather of our own lives is not be ignored or denied, it is to be encountered, honored, felt, known for what it is, and held in awareness… And in holding it in this way, we come to know a deeper silence and stillness and wisdom. 

Mountains have this to teach us and much more if we can let it in.

Cloud Meditation

The freedom of an ever moving, ever changing cloud represents the freedom of spirit. One that is not fixed or attached to things that hold us down. Watch this meditative short film from the ‘Valley of Clouds’ and reflect on the cloud within you.

Forest Calm

One way of interpreting the word ‘Forest’ is to see it as a place ‘for rest‘. In this beautiful poem ‘Sleeping in the Forest’ by Mary Oliver, we find respite from a weary world and return to a place of deep calm.

I thought the earth remembered me,
She took me back so tenderly,
arranging her dark skirts, her pockets
full of lichens and seeds.
I slept as never before, a stone on the river bed,
nothing between me and the white fire of the stars
but my thoughts, as they floated light as moths
among the branches of the perfect trees.
All night I heard the small kingdoms
breathing around me, the insects,
and the birds who do their work in the darkness.
All night I rose and fell, as if in water,
grappling with a luminous doom. By morning
I had vanished at least a dozen times
into something better.
~ Mary Oliver

pic by: Katriina Kilpi

Tree Song

Listening to the song of trees is one of the most calming sounds in nature. The wind in the leaves and birds in the branches can slow down the movement of time and fill your heart with joy.

You can create your own tree song at this link.
https://mynoise.net/NoiseMachines/primevalEuropeanForestSoundscapeGenerator.php

This soundscape has been recorded in the Bieszczady National Park — one of the few remaining primeval forests in Europe. Bieszczady is located at the extreme south-east corner of Poland, bordering Slovakia and Ukraine. The park and its surroundings are part of the wider UNESCO East Carpathian Biosphere Reserve, an area of land where the woods are mostly natural.

The bird sounds as well as the other animal sounds were recorded by hiding recorders in the forest and leaving them running for 24-hours continuously, without any human presence.

pic by: Gert Boers

River Story

Fable: Two giants were about to get into an epic battle. Everyone was nervous and yet there was a thrill in the air. One of the giants was immovable and had stood his ground for centuries. He was made of solid rock and no one had been able to make him move from his place. The other giant was crafty and nimble. She could twist and turn and had never been still. No one had been able to stop her yet. 

In a frozen moment of great tension the two giants collided. There was a loud roar that echoed into space. The river pounded with all its force, but the mountain stood his ground. The river’s current was strong, but it had to find ways to flow around and carry on. After watching with great interest the spectators decided that the rock giant was stronger and went to congratulate it. But the mountain was surprised and retorted angrily ‘Can’t you see I am losing?’ 

In a battle that rages till this day, the River Colorado manages to cut through the Grand Canyon forming one of the most beautiful natural wonders of the world.

Insight: Perseverance can move mountains. The way of water is stronger than the way of the rock.

Amazing fact: The Colorado River established its course through the canyon at least 17 million years ago. Since that time, the Colorado River continued to erode and form the canyon to its present-day configuration

I would love to live
like a river flows,
carried by the surprise
of its own unfolding.

~John O’Donohue
pic by: Ivan Bandura

Ocean Poem

The vastness of the ocean is often daunting, for one is always cautious of the unknown. In this wonderful poem by Khalil Gibran we find a metaphor of the river and ocean for overcoming our fears.

It is said that before entering the sea
a river trembles with fear.
She looks back at the path she has traveled,
from the peaks of the mountains,
the long winding road crossing forests and villages.
And in front of her,
she sees an ocean so vast,
that to enter
there seems nothing more than to disappear forever.
But there is no other way.
The river can not go back.
Nobody can go back.
To go back is impossible in existence.
The river needs to take the risk
of entering the ocean
because only then will fear disappear,
because that’s where the river will know
it’s not about disappearing into the ocean,
but of becoming the ocean.
~ by Khalil Gibran

pic by: John Fowler

Desert Meditation

Many people perceive the desert as a harsh and difficult place to live in. But ecologists know that deserts have their own unique ecosystem and many species live and thrive in the desert.

Philosophically speaking, the desert represents emptiness. To meditate on the desert is to meditate on emptiness. It is to go beyond the clutter of thoughts and emotions and to find the vast open space within us.

In following passage from Jack Kornfield’s book ‘A Path With Heart’, he introduces us to the Buddhist concept of healing through emptiness.

“The last aspect of mindful healing is awareness of the universal laws that govern life. Central to it is an understanding of emptiness. We experience it when we see that our existence is transitory, that our body, heart, and mind arise out of the changing web of life, where nothing is disconnected or separate.

The deepest experiences in meditation lead us to an intimate awareness of life’s essential openness and emptiness, of its ever-changing nature, of its nature as an unstoppable process. And it can open us to the great mystery of life, to the discovery of the emptiness and wholeness that we are and our fundamental unity with all things.”

GIFT OF CALM IN NATURE

There are many scientific reasons for the calming effect of nature on our minds. Some of the major benefits include a boost in your physical immunity and well-being. Better mental health and protection from the ill-effects of stress, anxiety, depression. Improvement in sleep, focus, memory and cognitive skills. But the most important phenomenon of connecting with nature is a growth in our understanding of the laws of nature that weave through all creation.

By finding our own calm in nature, we are able to bring this tranquility to our day-to-day chores and influence the nature of other people in our lives.

The coronavirus has shown us that the fate of our species is linked with each other, irrespective of borders and religion. It is time to grow our humanity, come together as a species and lend our support to those in need because we are all connected. There are no others.  

As the world enters a lockdown and our forays into nature become limited, we can still find solace and connection with nature through creative works, meditations and most importantly through each other.

Please add any other inspiring creative works that lead to calm in nature, in the comments section below. We will share it with our large audience base on Facebook.

If you enjoyed this post, do check out our Nature Calm course with over 100+ mindful nature activities and meditations from around the world. To get a monthly newsletter with new ideas please sign up at this link

May the calm of nature always be with you.

Forest Theatre, Mindful Play in Nature

Forest theatre is a set of creative exercises and mindfulness based games to reconnect with nature and with yourself. In this article you will learn a range of interesting activities for nature play. The ideas have been carefully selected to suit all age-groups. In fact, it is a wonderful way to bring people from different backgrounds and ages together and make new friends.

With the increasing influence of technology in our lives, fewer time is being spent outdoors. The screens keep us hooked by creating easy rewards for the brain, and are slowly influencing our behaviour and lifestyle. These brain rewards create unhealthy habits which are extremely hard to break. It’s no wonder that obesity, anxiety, loneliness and many other lifestyle issues are on the rise. We desperately need a substitute for all the junk entertainment that is being fed into our brains.

Cartoon by Angel Boligan

Is there a simple way to unblock our minds and imagination so that we can move away from our old habits and create new ways of being? Perhaps with forest theatre you can choose a few moments to break free and learn to fly.

Benefits of Nature Play

The main benefits of nature play, besides having great fun and creating memorable moments is the positive effect on our observation and imagination. It builds our attention, and curiosity and will lead to higher self confidence, self awareness and self control. These may seem like simple things but as we shall see later in the article, they can make a big difference in overcoming addictions and breaking bad habits in life.

Forest theatre is a pathway to explore our inner selves by taking inspiration from nature. It is about learning with nature, in nature. And we all know, the best learning happens when it is fun.

Forest Theatre Rules

When you do theatre in any nature based setting, the one simple rule to follow for forest theatre which sets it apart from other theatre games is that in forest theatre only non-human nature sounds are allowed. You can choose to do all the activities in silence or pick up any sound in nature that you find interesting. e.g: wind, bird, cricket, bee. Except for the director or activity leaders all participants are only allowed to converse in their chosen nature sounds or through actions, for the entire duration of each activity.

Silent claps: At the end of each activity, even the applause is silent. We do this by raising both our hand in the air and shaking our fingers and palms like tree leaves on a windy day. This is an interesting way of bringing mindfulness to the theatre practise. It respects the soundscape of the performance space and integrates nature into your play.

Listen. Observe. Accept. Create. Enjoy.

A short film made after a nature play session

Forest Theatre Games

During the forest theatre games it is essential to create an atmosphere of trust and support. This is a space free of judgements and filled with acceptance. You are allowed to make mistakes, in fact in Forest Theatre there are no mistakes. Be spontaneous. In each activity, you can do the first thing that comes to your mind. You don’t have to edit yourself, as long as you are coming from a place of fun, love and respect.

And most importantly, remember we are playing together as a team and supporting each other. You don’t have to be clever or funny or make up jokes, just be true to yourself and do what comes naturally.

Nature Introduction
Ask the group this simple question “If you could be one thing in nature, what would you be? You can be anything you wish for – a cloud, a river, a butterfly, or whatever your mind can think of. Choose something that inspires you or something you relate to.”

The group stands in a circle and each person introduces themselves by enacting the one thing from nature that they would like to be. The others try and guess the nature object.

Creatures of the Deep
Everyone stands in a circle. The director does an impression of a creature from the deep to the person standing on his right side. They copy what they see to the next person on their right. Each person copies what they just saw, not the original, so they gradually change like Chinese whispers. The director keeps sending out loads of creatures (squid, octopus, shark, star fish and more) into the circle and they keep going around until they change and merge and underwater fun is had. Credit: HooplaImpro, London

Creative Object
Go for a silent walk in nature. Each person picks up any unusual or interesting object they find during the walk. At end of the walk all objects are placed in a small pile and everyone forms a circle around it. One by one the participants pick up any object from the pile and use creative visualisation to turn this object into something else. For e.g: A long stick can become a flying broom, or a microphone stand or a paddle for a boat. The others try and guess what the object is being turned into

Advanced: Repeat this exercise from the beginning, but add a new twist. When someone picks up an object and is enacting a novel use, another person from the group joins in and picking up another object from the pile builds upon the scene that is being created. This cycle is repeated in pairs. Any object which have been used once is not kept back in the central pile.

Super Advanced: In this round, one person starts with any object and begins the scene. Other people keeping joining in and adding to the scene by choosing other objects from the central pile. Go around the circle until all objects have been used up and all the people are part of the scene.

Volcano
Everyone is walking fast in a tight circle without crashing into each other. The director shouts out some object from nature and counts to 5 and everyone has to physically form that thing with each other before the director gets to 5. For instance “Volcano, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5! Dinosaur, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5!”. It is used to get everyone moving around and having fun and also accepting and building on each other’s ideas. Credit: Marc Rowland at Montreal Improv.

A variation of this game is to divide your group into 2 teams. Each of the teams form the same object to the count of 5. This is a good way to observe how the same object can be interpreted and created in different fun ways.

You could also try whispering a different object to teams of 3-5 people. The team members have to move themselves to depict the object. Each team gets a count of 10, but they cannot talk to each other. Once a team creates their object the others can try and guess what it is.

Fairy Tale in 3 Frames
Divide people into small groups. Each group has to think of a fairy tale they would like to portray. They can only depict three still frames from any portion of the fairy tale. You can include one sound and one action in each of the frames. All the groups get only 5 minutes to prepare. The 3 still frames from the fairytale are played out in quick succession, one after the other. Rest of the participants have to guess the fairytale after watching the 3 frames. This exercise is a good practice in learning how to build story structures and scenes. Once participants are comfortable with creating scenes, they can move on to creating a short skit. Credit: Rebekah Lin, Teng Zi Ying, Arts for Good Fellows, Singapore

Music Video / Nature Play
One of the joys of forest theatre is being able to create something for nature. In the last activity for our Nature Play walk, we divide the group in small teams of 3 or 5. All the teams are given 10 minutes time to prepare a 2 min. short skit on a nature based issue. They can take up any theme that interests them – water, wildlife, pollution or more. Members of the group can choose any character they wish and can use human language for this activity. Or if you wish to stick to the rules of forest theatre then ask each group to choose one narrator, while the other members can only act out the scenes.

Here’s an idea that works out beautifully. Create a 2 minute play with these 5 characters – Human, Planet Earth, Aliens, Non-human nature element and a Narrator

Forest Theatre

A Curious Way To Break Bad Habits

In this TED Talk, Psychiatrist Judson Brewer explains a simple way of using curiosity to break bad habits.

He says, “Mindfulness is about being really interested in getting close and personal with what’s actually happening in our bodies and minds from moment to moment. And this willingness to turn toward our experience rather than trying to make unpleasant cravings go away, is supported by curiosity, which is naturally rewarding.

What does curiosity feel like? It feels good. And what happens when we get curious? We start to notice that cravings are simply made up of body sensations — oh, there’s tightness, there’s tension, there’s restlessness — and that these body sensations come and go. In other words, when we get curious, we step out of our old, fear-based, reactive habit patterns, and we step into being.

One current hypothesis is that a region of the brain, called the posterior cingulate cortex, is activated not necessarily by craving itself but when we get caught up in it, when we get sucked in, and it takes us for a ride. In contrast, when we let go – step out of the process just by being curiously aware of what’s happening – this same brain region quiets down. This makes it easier for us to take a step back and not indulge in our habit leading to another nice brain reward.

Now, this might sound too simplistic to affect behaviour. But in one study, we found that mindfulness training was twice as good as gold standard therapy at helping people quit smoking. So it actually works. The next time you get a notification, instead of choosing to see the message and compulsively send a reply , — notice the urge, get curious, feel the joy of letting go and repeat.”

BONUS: More Forest Theatre Games

Meet and Greet
Another very nice introduction game: The group leader picks any class of species (e.g: mammals, birds, insects, reptiles etc.) and everyone walks around meeting and greeting each other by becoming a character from the chosen type of living beings. This exercise breaks the ice and gets people used to trying out different characters without thinking about it too much.

You can even choose a specific animal and everyone in the group has to turn into that animal and move around in the circle for a minute without touching each other. Some choices that work well are: Frogs, Mosquitoes, Humming birds. And the best one to quieten things is the slow moving Sloth.

Prey and Predator
The group forms a circular ring. Two people enter the ring. One person chooses to be any creature and begins to act like it. The other person has to guess what the creature is and turn into it’s predator. Then the drama between the prey and it’s predator plays out inside the ring. This game can be made even more interesting if one or two members standing in the ring are designated to give background music score to the entire drama. This game provides a very good opportunity to observe and discuss the balance in nature.

To Be A Tree
A very good closing exercise in Nature Play is a 3 minute silent act. Ask each person in the group to imagine to be their favourite tree. You can sway gently in the wind or sit still. Feel the sun on your face, the wind on your skin, the earth beneath your feet. Open your eyes and become aware of all the life around you. As an individual you may be a tree, but together we all become a forest.

The essence of theatre is freedom. Freedom to express oneself. Freedom to imagine. Freedom to choose whatever one wants to be. Our day-to-day life is bound by routines, habits and the daily grind. But through nature and through creativity we find a stage to release the chains of thought that bind us. We give ourselves a chance to be truly free.

END NOTE: We are creating a small community of forest friends who share a close connection with nature. The aim is to learn from each other and share our experiences from around the world. Please feel free to add your own mindful nature play ideas in the comments section below. To get a monthly newsletter with new learning please sign up at this link.

*This post is part of our learning program on nature arts, games, meditations from around the world. The course is free for all school teachers and is available on a pay-as-you-like basis. It is a great resource filled with multiple ideas that also cover the art and science behind healing through nature. Please share this article in your circles with friends who might find it helpful.

Nature Poem – Wild Soul

Here’s a nature poem from one of the wild places of our amazing planet. A short poem that urges you to come closer to nature and add some wildness to your soul.

In this short film we see the hidden beauty of the forests from the arctic circle of Sápmi also known as Lapland. A region from the northern parts of Finland, where very few people live. What secrets do these forests hold? And what can we learn from the people who call this land their home?

Covered in snow and cloaked by darkness, the forests of the north are sleeping for a large portion of the year. But when the short summer arrives for a few months, the golden sun cast it’s rays on this wild land and reveals what is concealed. Endless green carpet of conifers, dotted with dark lakes that glint silver when seen from top of the surrounding hills. Occasional reindeer, a medley of birds and a carnival of wild flowers and berries add their own magic to this surreal landscape.

The people of this ancient land believe in making the most of all seasons. While winter is their playground, summer is the time for embracing the celebration of life. They know the bitter-sweet truth about nature. Some things are hidden so that their wildness can be treasured. Perhaps it is the same with the wildness of our soul.

*Turn on sound and watch in full screen. Visuals and words by Nitin Das | Music: Patrick Hawes | Special thanks: Maria Nurmela, Tuija Syrjaniemi | Location: Lapland, North Finland.

Feel free to use this video and poem as you please. A download link to this poem is given at the end of this post. You can also check out our Nature Calm course with 100+ ideas to re-wild your soul.

WILD SOUL

LIVING INSIDE THE BOX

The modern world is designed around boxes. We live in a box, travel in a box, work out of a box and are reading this post from a box. However, as a species we have evolved and existed outdoors for more than 99% of our human history. This disconnect from the outside world is beginning to show in our society.

As per this article in New York Times:
City dwellers have a higher risk for anxiety, depression and other mental illnesses than people living outside urban center. These developments seem to be linked to some extent, according to a growing body of research. Various studies have found that urban dwellers with little access to green spaces have a higher incidence of psychological problems than people living near parks and that city dwellers who visit natural environments have lower levels of stress hormones immediately afterward than people who have not recently been outside.

Creating a connection with the wildness outside is way of keeping the wildness within alive.

~People of Lapland

THINKING OUTSIDE THE BOX

The good news is that we can always turn to nature to boost our mental health as well as mental wealth. Effects of being in nature begin to show in as short as 20 minutes, but the longer time you can spend the better it is for you. Here are some interesting exercises based on the Japanese concept of Shinrin-yoku or forest mindfulness.

Wild Fractals: Fractals are self-repeating patterns that occur very frequently in nature. Like the shape of a river delta or the branches of a tree. Unlike the complexity of human designs which have many sharp lines and angles, the fractals are very easy on the eyes. Seek out fractals in nature and when you find one, take time to trace it with your eyes. Start from one edge point and slowly follow it till the other end point. Interestingly, our nerve connections in the eye are also fractals.

Wild songs: Natural silence is one of the most endangered resources on our planet. We are surrounded by noise. But sounds have a direct link with our subconscious mind. Go out into nature and collect the sounds that you hear. Stay still and make a list of all the different natural sounds you can hear. By focusing on the softer, gentler sounds we are able to cut off the chatter in our own head.

Wild food: Finding edible food from the forest that has not be touched by any harmful chemicals or human interventions is an energising adventure. Whether it is berry picking, mushroom hunting or gathering wild herbs for tea, you will be rewarded not just by the joy of the activity but also the nutritious delight that boosts your immunity and health.

There are many such activities scattered around our website. Explore the pages to find new ideas and other wild places.

END NOTE: . We hope this poem added a little wildness to your soul. Please share this post with friends who are spending far too much time in front of a box. Here’s a download link to our nature poem – wild soul.

You can subscribe to our monthly blog posts at this link. We are a small group of friends trying to find new ways to reconnect people with nature. Our aim is simple. Helping people heal. Helping forests heal. 

Nature By Numbers | Nature Meditations on Life and Self

Nature by Numbers

The quest for understanding the self and search for the meaning of life is as old as memory. No one can give us the correct answer because for each one of us, the path to the answer is different. But clues are all around in nature because understanding Self is linked to understanding life. In this post, we look for answers in nature by numbers and see where they lead us.

Many people are afraid of Math because no one helped them make friends with numbers. Nobody introduced them to the wonder and wisdom that is hidden in the language of the Universe.

After all the positive feedback for our Healing forest learning program and requests for more nature games, meditations and mindfulness activities we have come up with this interesting walk format. We hope these mindfulness exercises help you create new learning and a new respect for yourself. Because nature and numbers are a part of you, just as you are a part of them. But first, here’s an inspiring film by Cristobal Vila.

NATURE BY NUMBERS FILM

NUMBERS IN NATURE & MEDITATION

Let us take a slow and gentle walk in nature. Our aim is to observe and reflect. Walk with a few like minded friends or go alone. Carry a pen and paper to note down your insights and experiences. And be open to try something new. (A free download of all nature meditations in this article is given at the very end.)

Math is like love; a simple idea, but it can get complicated.

9 Numbers in Nature:  We begin the walk with an exercise to start seeing numbers in nature. Participants have to find the numbers 1 to 9 in their surroundings. Everyone can quickly strike off 1 and 2 as we all have one nose and two ears. The other numbers have to be found outside of the human body. For example a flower with 5 petals, an ant with 6 legs.  All participants are given a time limit of 10 minutes to find as many of the remaining numbers as possible. The exercise is to be done individually or in pairs. The group reassembles at the end of the time to work together as a team and find any missing number that no one could find.

8 Patterns in nature:  Nature is full of patterns that have astounded mathematicians and poets alike for centuries. One such pattern is called the Fibonacci. The Fibonacci sequence starts like this: 0, 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, 34, 55 and so on forever. Each number is the sum of the two numbers that come before it. It’s a simple pattern, but it appears to be a kind of built-in numbering system to the cosmos. The numbers in the pattern can be found in our own DNA as well the spirals of the Galaxy.

The numbers of the Fibonacci sequence are very commonly seen in petals of flowers . Examples include the lily, which has three petals, buttercups, which have five, the chicory’s 21, the daisy’s 34. These are all numbers from the Fibonacci sequence.

Nature Meditation: The aim of our exercise is to find interesting patterns in nature and take pictures. Try and see if you can collect a similar pattern in two different objects of nature.

Colours: Every Colour that you see is a number. Light travels as a wave and each colour in the spectrum has a specific wavelength and frequency. Our visual sense is not only able to gauge and see different colours but also associates certain emotions with them subconsciously.

Nature Meditation: The aim of our next exercise is to spot all the 7 rainbow colours during your nature walk. Each individual makes a list of at-least 7 different colours they can observe during the walk. The aim is also to spend a little time with each separate colour and become aware of how the colour makes us feel. At the end of the exercise people who are drawn to the same colour can group together to see whether they share other common personality traits.

6 Geometry: Have you ever marvelled at the beauty and shape of a spiral sea-shell?  Geometry is all about shapes and their properties. Lines, curves and shapes that can be drawn on paper make up plane geometry, while 3 dimensional objects are part of solid geometry. 

The spiral curve is one of the many examples in nature that give us a hint of the underlying simplicity which gives rise to the complexities in nature. The study of geometry allows us to become aware of the larger design of Nature. Here’s a short film on the curve called ‘life’.

Nature Meditation: Creating a spiral. This can be done individually or in a group. The intention is to create a beautiful spiral with objects found in nature. Make it as big as you can. Each person starts from the same center point and creates one arm of a spiral radiating outwards. After working on it for 10 minutes, the creator stands on the outer edge of their spiral arm and starts to walk back to the center slowly and mindfully following the path of their spiral. The last person to reach the center wins. (You cannot pause and have to continue walking inward as slow as you can).*Don’t forget to erase your spiral and disperse everything back in nature, before you leave.

Send us a picture of a nature spiral from your walk on our Facebook group: Art of Nature. Next month, we will create a short film with all the spirals collected from different corners of the world and leave a download link here.

5 Senses are our window to the world. Every person perceives the world differently based on  how each of their different senses have developed. Staying in the city does take a toll on our overall sense perceptions where some senses can be overloaded like our sight and some underdeveloped like our smell. Being in nature allows us to relax our senses and sharpen them so that our experience of the world can become richer.

Nature Meditation: Walk or sit silently in the forest. Focus on any one sense at a time for a short period of 2-3 minutes. Make a note of all the unique things you can observe and sense. Repeat the exercise with another of your senses. Notice how each sense reveals something new about the nature around us. The aim of this exercise is to bring us into the present moment and stop our thoughts from leaping into the past or future.

4 Breath of 4: In this exercise we focus on our breath to bring our mind to the present moment and take the help of numbers to build mindfulness. We use counting to stay focused on the breath. Inhale. Exhale. After the out-breath you count one, then you breathe in and out and count two, and so on up to ten. This is a very good exercise for calming your mind.

Once you have brought your attention to the breath you can deepen your awareness to see the breath is made of 4 stages not 2. Inhale. Exhale. And 2 small gaps after each inhale and exhale. Inhale. Pause. Exhale. Pause. Sit in a quiet spot in nature and repeat the breath count to 10 being aware of the 4 stages of each breath.

This meditation makes us realise that numbers live with us as part of our lives and we can always turn to them for focus, attention and peace of mind.

π Circles: Take a circle. Any circle in the world. Measure it’s length, all the way around the circle. Then measure it across, from one edge to the other edge. Now divide the two lengths. You will always get the same number. 3.14…

This number is called Pi and is often written using the greek symbol π. What’s strange about Pi is that the division is never complete. You can go on dividing without reaching an end. Here’s an example 22 divided by 7.  π has been calculated to over two quadrillion decimal places and still there is no pattern to the digits.  

Nature Meditation: Spot the circles. Count the maximum number of circular objects one can notice in your surrounding nature within a time frame of 5 minutes. If you can, try and measure the circumference and diameter of any circle and divide them to find your own Pi. 

Nature Meditation (Alt): The other interesting exercise with number 3 is to observe the 3 different stages of life. Birth. Maturity. Death. Find and take pictures of objects in different stages. Reflect on how everything is changing from one stage to another.

2 Opposites: Nature is made up of opposites. Day and night. Left and right. Sound and silence. Hot and cold. To observe the two opposing sides of nature is to understand our own true nature. 

Nature Meditation: For this exercise participants divide into 2 equal groups ‘Positives’ and ’Negatives’. Members of the 2 groups walk in separate directions  and each individual (depending on their group) makes a list of 5 positives or 5 negatives they observe in nature. The groups reassemble after 5 minutes and make pairs between the positives and negatives group. Each pair then tries to see how many matching opposites do they have between their 2 lists. For e.g.: If one person wrote ‘light’ and the other person wrote ‘shadow’ then it is considered a successful match.

With this exercise we observe that perception of life – positive or negative is based on our mind. And the mind can be trained to choose. *Some wise people in your group might raise a doubt and say that in nature there are no positives and negatives. Everything just is. They are right. Agree with them and tell them it’s just a game.

1 Oneness:  Have you ever wondered why we only count in multiples of 10 ? A counting base of 10 is natural probably because we have 10 fingers. In ancient societies, a base 10 system wasn’t always used. The Sumerians used a base 60 system. This is why we count time in bases of 60 (60 minutes in an hour, 60 seconds in a minute). Machines are built using switches, so it is natural for them to count only off (0) and on (1).This system is called binary. 

There can be many other number systems, but one thing connects them all. Numbers are concepts which only have meaning when they relate to each other. In a sense, it is this relationship that gives each number a specific meaning in the larger number system. For e.g 5 is related to 10,15,20,25 in a certain way. Here’s another chain of relationships: 1,2,6,24, 120….Can you figure out the next 2 numbers in this chain?

Nature Meditation: Participants take some time out to observe the many relationships that exist in nature. Each person comes up with a chain of nature relations. For e.g. Sun – Plant – Flower – Bee. The aim is to see who can come up with the longest chain of relationships… and perhaps to realize that we are all part of multiple chain of relationships, which give our life true meaning.

0The number Zero is widely seen as one of the greatest innovations in human history. Zero is both a number and a concept meaning the absence of any quantity. With the help of Zero we can do complicated equations and perform calculus. It is also at the heart of the language of computers which speak in 0’s and 1’s.

In philosophical terms it represents nothingness or emptiness out of which all existence arises. We end our nature walk by taking a few minutes to walk in silence and reflect on the concept of zero. 

Meditating on zero is a meditation in humility. It is to become aware that in the vastness of the Universe – both in space and time, our small individuality amounts to nothingness. And yet, just like the importance of zero, one can realize how significant even the most insignificant thing in the world can be.

MEDITATIONS ON NATURE | FREE DOWNLOAD

Nature By Numbers

Download link of 2 posters for mindfulness meditations on nature by numbers. We would appreciate a link back to our site in case you re-post them.

Please share these 10 beautiful meditations on nature by numbers with friends who might find it interesting. If you enjoyed this post, check out our learning program for more nature based walks and activities.

You can subscribe to our monthly blog posts at this link. We are a small group of friends trying to find new ways to reconnect people with nature. Our aim is simple. Helping people heal. Helping forests heal.

Healing Our Earth

From a distance, everything looks beautiful. When we gaze upon
our tiny blue planet from the black void of space, we cannot make out the many conflicts that are raging all over the planet.

While the politics of greed, hatred and power plays out in different parts of the globe, the greatest threat is largely being ignored. A rapidly growing human population coupled with a lifestyle which is based on taking more from earth than giving back is threatening the safety of all our future generations.

The hope lies in creating a new vision for our world. A vision which becomes surprisingly clear when we travel into space and look back at Earth from a distance. Watch this 3 min film and see whether you agree.

CREDITS
Film and Words: Nitin Das | Music: Dario Forzato | Visuals: Made with Google Earth Studio

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WORDS

War is often a fight for peace
Anger, but a cry for love

Every mother knows

Countries are just concepts
Borders are but egos

Every river knows

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Politics is but religion
Religion is but control

Every martyr knows

Victory is but fleeting
Loss, permanent

Every orphan knows

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Conflict is but business
Business but for greed

The planet knows

The world is but divided
Our future uncertain

Till everyone knows

Earth is but home
Healing it is but healing ourselves

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END NOTE
Climate change will affect more people than all the wars combined in human history. There is only one planet which supports our life and it belongs to all of us. The world may be in conflict, but together we can heal our Earth. (Here’s a link to 10 things we can all do, to act on climate change)

You can subscribe to our monthly blog posts at this link.  We are a small group of friends trying to find new ways to reconnect people with nature. Our aim is simple. Helping people heal. Helping forests heal.

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Forest Wisdom from North America

Across the world in space and time, indigenous communities have lived in harmony with their natural surroundings. Their daily sustenance on the resources of the landscape – be it the forests or grasslands, the mountains or the valleys, the lakes or the oceans – are intricately intertwined with their traditional practices, religious beliefs, oral as well as cultural histories. This dependence on their surrounding natural environment has led almost all indigenous cultures to form an intangible bond with Gaia, Mother Earth, which moves beyond a solely materialistic interaction towards a deeper spiritual connection.

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In this post we catch a glimpse into some examples of the wisdom of indigenous people from the continent of North America.

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CANADA

People of the Moose Cree First Nation & Tla-o-qui-aht people of Clayoquot Sound

“Listening to the wind and to the river, it brings some calmness and serenity into your being. When I need healing, I go to the land.” Sophia Rabliauskas, Poplar River First Nation on the eastern shores of Lake Winnipeg

In the boreal forest ecosystems of Canada have lived and thrived hundreds of distinct Aboriginal and Metis communities (also referred to as the First Nations peoples) over many millennia. It is estimated that at least 600 indigenous communities are located in Canada’s forests today, communities whose culture and traditional practices are intimately twined with that of the land, the water and the forest creatures. Even as they engage in activities like hunting, gathering and fishing for themselves and their community, the relationship of the indigenous peoples is based upon their profound spiritual connection to Mother Earth that guides them to practice reverence, humility and reciprocity.

“Keeping our cultural alive is all about being part of the land, being part of the wildlife, the fish and the birds.” Stephen Kakfwi, Dene Nation

One of the interesting events for the people of Cree First Nation on James Bay is the annual spring goose hunt that corresponds to the migration of these birds. This is an important time for the community whereby the excitement of the hunt also corresponds to the passing down of cultural values.

Geese are a main staple food for the people of James Bay…This is one of the peoples’ most important seasonal cultural events. It’s a time for gathering, sharing, learning, and reconnecting ourselves to the land. Knowledge of values and morals are passed on and the traditional teachings associated with the hunt are shared. These include respect, patience, honour and gratefulness to name a few… The goose hunt is not just a goose hunt. There is so much more as it is a lifestyle from our ancestors and for future generations as well.” – Lilian Trapper, Land Use Planning Coordinator for the Moose Cree First Nation on James Bay

For the Tla-o-qui-aht peoples, who are the original inhabitants of Clayoquot Sound, usage of the forest resources were always based on certain laws and teachings, and this included the protection of intact rainforest and waters. In their system of tribal governance, the Hereditary Chiefs (known collectively as Ha`wiih) would be responsible for their Ha`huulthii (traditional territory), the people of their community and all matters pertaining to the forests, rivers, food, medicines, songs, dances, and ceremonies. In recent times, due to the threats of logging and modern developmental activities, the Tla-o-qui-aht have incorporated a watershed-by-watershed management system with the intent of conserving the resources within these areas for future generations. They have categorized the areas broadly as qwa siin hap (which loosely translates to “leave as it is”) and uuya thluk nish (which means “we take care of”). The latter category of land is meant to integrate human activities into the ecosystem while also taking care of its well-being.

In fact, the Tla-o-qui-aht declared Meares Island (Wah-nah-jus – Hilth-hoo-is) as a Tribal Park in 1984 – thus becoming the first indigenous community in Canada that actively took control over management of their tribal lands. Till date they have declared three additional Tribal Parks as a means to protect their forests, waters, and resources.

USA

Karuk people of California

The Karuk people live in the north-western corner of the state of California. ‘Karuk‘ means ‘upriver people’ referring to their proximity to the Klamath river, one of the important river ecosystems of North America. Like many other indigenous cultures around the world, the Karuks have used fire as an essential tool for land- and forest-management in order to convert the organic matter into fertilizers, cleanse the soil of pathogens, and increase the species richness of an area. Therefore, an essential link has been forged between the element of fire, the health of the land and the well-being of the Karuk community.

By way of prescribed burning i.e. using fire at the right time for the right reasons, the Karuks could grow traditional foods like huckleberries, acorns, salmon and elk, medicinal herbs like wormwood, willow, bear grass, and encourage hazel trees to produce straight shoots needed for basket-making. In riverine ecosystems, fire reduced invasive weeds and brush along the sides of the stream and improved water quality, thus boosting salmon population.

Before it was deemed an illegal practice in 1911 by the federal government, the traditional fire-management system of the Karuks protected the communities scattered in the hills along the Klamath river from wildfires. Now decades later there is a growing consensus among forest ecologists to incorporate the fire management practices of the Karuks into the modern framework so as to aid in the prevention of California’s notorious wildfires.

“If we’re going to restore fish, we have to use fire. If we’re going to restore acorns and huckleberries, we have to use fire. It’s not just waiting for lightning to strike.” – Frank Lake, the Forest Service ecologist

Pic by: Isabella Juskova

 

END Note: The healing of our society is intricately linked to the healing of our land. It’s because the environment we live in is not separate from us. What we learn from the wisdom of the land, helps us create a deeper understanding of our own interlinked lives.

This article was contributed by Romila Sil, a wandering soul who is on a journey to study the role of forests in the fostering of traditional and cultural ties in communities. Please add your insights in the comments section to grow our collective knowledge.

You can subscribe to our monthly blog posts here. We are a small group of friends trying to find new ways to reconnect people with nature. Our aim is simple. Helping people heal. Helping forests heal.

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