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Mindful : April 2019
It has been a long day at my desk, staring at a computer; my brain cells feel wrung dry with too much cogitation. Late afternoon, the fog has lifted on the hilltops above my house and I decide to venture out on a hike to clear my head and connect with what I love most: this pulsing earth. ABOUT THE AUTHOR Mark Coleman is a mindfulness meditation teacher, nature guide, author of Make Peace with Your Mind and Awake in the Wild and founder of the Mindfulness Institute. An “inner and outer explorer,” Mark likes nothing more than sharing his passion for integrating nature and meditation and has led wilderness meditation retreats from Alaska to Peru. He lives in Marin County. PHOTOGRAPHSBYWIN-INITIATIVE/GETTYIMAGESANDCOURTESYOFMARKCOLEMAN As I start out on one my favorite trails, it takes a while for my senses to open up, but soon I feel embraced into a luminous world, welcomed by innumerable shades of green, tall grasses shimmering, trees swaying in the breeze, and shafts of sunlight peering through the thick canopy. Below me, a family of quail dart in and out of the bushes. As I crest the hill, I feel the invigoration of the cool wind, blown in fresh from the Pacific. I inhale deeply and smell the bite of the salty ocean air, which feels like a homecoming, familiar and welcoming. It seems to blow the dullness from my mind, and I sense how nature invites us to connect and feel our way into a larger sense of self. We tend to think of consciousness as skin bound, brain tethered. However, in nature we can sense something vaster—and that something larger senses us. And from here our percep- tion and understanding transforms: We start to think from this bigger perspective. Mindful Awareness in Nature For over 15 years, I have led Awake in the Wild retreats in places such as the islands in the Sea of Cortez in Baja, Mexico, the Sierra Nevada mountains in California, and the red rock can- yons in Arizona. Participants immerse them- selves in the beauty of wilderness for a week of silence and meditation and become transformed by the process. Through the portal of mind- ful awareness, they are developing an intimate connection with the natural world that is both sublime and insightful. They come to sense how embedded they are within the fabric of life and its ecosystems. I teach my nature-based meditation work, in part, because we have lost the art and ability to know how to be in nature. We are mostly busy doing nature. We are conquering the mountains, beating our best time on a run, chatting with friends on a walk, listening to music on head- phones, or simply spaced out, daydreaming or lost in thought. Although I believe any time in the outdoors is time well spent, what we do with our mind while we are outside is significant. With mindfulness training, we learn that in any moment we can shift attention from the stress- inducing thought realms—the brain’s default mode network—into the visceral present. We can attune to our senses and see how they support present-moment awareness. We realize the body and its sensory nature are always present. By practicing outside, we discover how nature constantly allures our awareness to its beauty, → April 2019 mindful 43 nature