The One I Share With You My Favourite 5 Ways of Meditating In Nature To Support My Healing Journey From Childhood Sexual Abuse.
In today’s blog, I would like to share with you how I use my love of nature and my deep connection with the earth to heal from Childhood Sexual Abuse (CSA). I will talk about how being out in nature has supported me on my healing journey over the years and I will share with you some of my favourite ways of meditating out in nature that have helped me to manage depression, anxiety, emotional imbalance, processing and being ungrounded, through my connection with the earth.
My healing journey from CSA has been one, like many survivors, amongst many other things, a journey of searching. Searching for reconnection to myself and the Truth of who I really am. My truth was suppressed all those years ago, as a child who experienced the trauma of sexual abuse at a very young age. And my healing journey has been very much about me re-claiming my life, my truth and who I am.
All through that journey, nature has always been close to me. It has been the one constant thing that has kept me centered and has helped to remind me, in more recents times, of my truth and who I am. It is the one thing through the pain, the struggle and the tears that has given me a consistent place where I can go to reconnect to the strength, hope, courage and will inside that has enabled me to carry on.
Whenever I struggle now, be that with my day to day life challenges, my role as a mum, with relationships, work or my healing journey…if I lose myself, my focus, clarity, direction, balance, calm centre or just need time out from it all, I know…ALWAYS…. that I can go outside into nature and re-find myself…re-balance and connect once again to who I really am.
The Earth for me is more than just my physical home, so much more! It is my restorer of hope, my inspiration, my re-connection to the source of my courage, strength and energy within. It is my place of grounding, balance, nurturing and support. And it is my nourishment, my revitalisation, my relaxation, my life…and my reconnection to my Truth to all that is and who I am here to be.
Over the years I have found solace in nature in many different ways that have helped me to manage anxiety, to cope with depression and to find a stable, grounded centre from which I can navigate the day to day challenges that I have faced. To this day, I still take time to connect with nature each day. One of the ways that I do that is through practising meditation outside in nature. Below I share with you 5 ways that I use meditation to find healing, hope, strength, support, love, caring and nurturing through my connection with the earth:
Meditation In Nature
I love meditating in nature. I don’t get to do it so much these days with a toddler in tow but over the years I have loved to be outside and have found lots of different ways to calm and still my overactive mind through meditation in nature.
Meditating, for me, in its simplest definition, is about giving the mind something other to focus on than its incessant thoughts, worries and concerns. It’s about using an object to focus your mind on so that it becomes calm and still and we in turn become present, connected and at one with the object upon which we are meditating and in turn life, ourselves and all that is. Nature provides us not only with an abundance of magnificent objects upon which we can focus but also through our connection to it in meditation, the opportunity to step out of our man made world of distraction, noise and overstimulation and into the ‘real’ world of depth, calm, Truth and tranquility that is in alignment with our deep intrinsic and intuitive nature and way of being.
Here are 5 of the ways that I like to meditate in nature:
PLEASE NOTE: with all of these exercises when practising outside, it is important to find a safe place to practise where you will not be disturbed. If you feel unsafe or uncomfortable practising alone outside, ask a trustworthy friend or family member to sit close by whilst you practise. As with all meditation practise, it can take patience and perseverance, self compassion and awareness to really begin to notice the benefits of the practice. I find if my mind keeps wandering off in my practice that if I take 3 deep breaths, that can help me to re-set, re-centre and re-focus again. Some days are easier to practise than others but it comes with patience, perseverance and practise.
- Simple Breath Meditation
Both Meditation and Yoga practice talk about uniting the body and mind so that we become whole and at one with ourselves and all that is. Using the breath in meditation can help us to do that. I like to take this practice of combining the breath and meditation out with me when I practise meditation out in nature.
- As I begin my walk towards my place of practise I become aware of how I am feeling – aware of my emotions and thoughts. Often I use my dictaphone/voice recorder to do a ‘brain dump’ or voice journal , whereby I just talk out everything I have going on in that moment that may be causing me stress, anxiety, overwhelm, concern etc…paying attention to key emotions that I am feeling.
- When I arrive at where I am going to practise and/or when I have finished my voice journal I set my intention to just let go of my thoughts and concerns and that which no longer serves me, to allow myself to surrender to the moment and all that is beyond the world of my experiences, challenges, thoughts and beliefs.
- I either find a quiet place to sit or I practise whilst I walk. If walking I try to slow down my walking pace, to a calm and relaxed pace.
- I become aware of my breath, slowing down my breath to a slow 4×4 count (breathing in for the slow count of 4 and breathing out for the slow count of 4).
- I don’t force the breath in any way and resume normal breathing if it doesn’t feel right for me at any given time of practise.
- As I breathe in, I start my practice by saying inwardly(silently to myself) ‘I breathe in’ and then as I breathe out, I say to myself ‘I breathe out’ continuing in this way for about 2-3 minutes or until I feel myself starting to find presence in the moment, rather than in my worries and concerns.
- I then start to repeat a mantra as I walk. Something like. I breathe in peace and breathe out tension ( or my worries). I breathe in calm. I breathe out and relax. Or I breathe in love and breathe out Fear. If there is a particular challenge that I am facing I may use words to build confidence and inspiration. For example: I breathe in courage and breathe out fear. Or ,I breathe in courage and Breathing out I feel strong. Or I breathe into the present moment and breathe out fully present in the here and now.
- I practise for 5, 10, 15 minutes. Depending on how much time I have.
- If I become distracted or my mind wanders off, I return my awareness back to the breath and meditation practice.
I like this exercise because it allows me to listen to my needs, to tune in and self care and support myself through meditation and positive mantra.
- Meditating on a leaf or flower
This is such a simple practice to do and one that I really love, particularly at this time of the year as the Autumn leaves are beginning to change and turn into so many vibrant colours. When I do this type of meditation, I like to engage as many of the senses as I can, as you’ll see below. I can easily get lost in a leaf or beautiful flower.
- I find a leaf, fallen or still on a tree or plant or a flower.
- I pick up the leaf (or collected object) and lay it in my hands and then focus my awareness and attention fully on the leaf.
- I notice the colours, the different shades, patterns and hues all fading and merging into one another.
- I notice the veins in the leaf, the main stem, the edges of the leaf.
- I feel the leaf. Running my fingers over the top and bottom; along the edges. Noticing how that feels. All the time keeping my breath slow, deep and even. Keeping my awareness and attention in the moment, focussing on my object of meditation. Our sense of touch is so powerful and there are so many wonderful textures in nature and so I like to rub the object against my face or over the top of my hand. Noticing how the leaf feels. We have so many different nerve endings over the body and they all provide us with different experiences and sensations. It can be interesting to rub the leaf over different areas such as the face, the back of the hand, the foot, the fingers, the arms, the toes, the legs to feel and notice any differences. Using our sense of touch, in this way, can be so powerful, particularly as survivors of abuse, as a way of grounding and connecting us into our bodies. Something we often lose a sense of, as a result of our earlier abuse.
- I like to smell the leaves too. Noticing the scent. Breathing deeply. Our sense of smell can be very powerful in reawakening memories so be aware that this practice may bring up memories.
- I practise for 5, 10, 15 minutes whatever amount of time, I can.
It’s always nice to finish this practice by closing my eyes and taking a minute or two to breathe deeply. Allowing myself to really feel the wonder of all the feelings and sensations that I may have experienced, before I end my meditation and continue with my day.
I like to collect long pieces of bark lying on the ground, fallen leaves, pine cones, feathers etc when I am out and about to practise this meditation with when I return home. My daughter and I have a ‘pick up’ bag which we love to fill with nature’s gifts that we collect on our adventures together.
- Sound/Listening Meditation
This is one of my favourite meditations to do in nature. It really engages our sense of hearing and allows us, through our auditory system, to focus our mind on the wonderful sounds of nature to help calm body and mind. Nowadays, our senses are so bombarded with over stimulating and often very stressful sounds amplified out from our manmade societies and environments. These intrusive sounds flood out into what once used to be quiet and calming spaces in nature. Cars, leaf blowers, mobile phones, airplanes, everyday town and city noises are just some of the sounds that can be heard, even from afar. Sadly, a completely still and silent sanctuary in nature can be harder to find these days. All the sounds of modern/western life mentioned have tragically somehow become the norm or backdrop that shapes the auditory experience in the everyday world in which we live. But it’s not just outside in nature, in the home and workplace too, electrical goods, appliances, TV, radio all provide an environment of day long overwhelm and bombardment of the auditory senses. In response to this our nervous system is constantly overstimulated and our body adjusts to these often overwhelming and stressful stimulants in ways that block it’s normal, healthy pattern, flow and state of being.
Practising the following sound meditation in nature, I find for me, is an antidote to the overstimulating lives that we lead, that are heavily laden with these ultra stressful sounds.
- I sit or stand somewhere safe and comfortable out in nature.
- I close my eyes and take three deep breaths to calm and center myself.
- I breathe slowly, deeply and smoothly as I then just sit/stand and focus on the sounds all around me.
- I notice the different sounds that come and go. Focussing on the direction they are coming from. Are they coming from in front of me? From behind? To the left or the right of me?
- I notice the sound coming into my awareness and whether the sound appears to get louder or softer. I notice whether the sound is constant or whether it comes and goes.
- I notice whether the sound is moving or stationary.
- I notice whether the sound is dominant, alone, the only sound I hear or whether other sounds interrupt or join in.
- I notice the difference in the sounds I hear and notice how they make me feel. Do they bring up thoughts, judgements, memories. If so, I lovingly and compassionately witness and observe how I am feeling without getting attached to my thoughts, bringing my awareness and focus back to my breath and my meditation if my mind wanders of or becomes distracted.
Again I like to end this practice by taking 3 more deep breaths. Having a good stretch. Perhaps jotting any insights down that came up during my practice, before continuing with my day.
There have been many times in the past that I have found it hard to get away from the everyday sounds and distractions of ‘daily living’. Even as I sit in my garden room writing this blog post, in the quiet Sussex village in which I live, the sounds of nature are lost amidst the sounds of everyday living – the sound of passing cars, lawnmowers, airplanes, power tools and leaf blowers! We can’t always escape to a tranquil sanctuary in nature, when we need to during a busy working week or if we live in a busy town or city. So I have found over the years ways to create and bring the sounds of nature into my home. Whilst it’s not the same as being out in nature, it is the next best way that I can find a connection with nature in situations when I am unable to get away from all the man made noise, in my everyday life. Even to this day I will often put on a sounds of nature track or relaxing music to help recreate that sense of being out in nature. Below I will share with you some of my favourite tracks that I like to use to meditate to when I am unable to get outside or connect with the stillness of the land.
Nature sounds are so powerful at calming our overactive minds and over-stimulated body and nervous system. Practising the sound meditation I have spoken about above has not only helped me over the years to soothe and relax my body but also has helped me to calm and still the anxiety, intrusive thoughts and overactivity in my mind.
- Walking Meditation
Walking meditation is another way that I like to meditate in nature. There are two walking meditations that I like to practise. 1) Walking With the Breath Meditation and 2) Body Awareness Meditation.
I have to admit that I find walking meditation, to be, at times quite challenging to practise. Probably because I can often be stuck in my head, in a state of being ungrounded and not fully present or embodied in a given moment. That makes it harder for me to connect to this practise and the feelings, sensations and opportunity for present moment awareness in the body that this type of meditation offers. Despite finding it hard though, walking meditation is always good for me to keep coming back to, to help me learn to ground and be present more.
I recently came across an article written by the renowned Zen Master, Thich Nhat Hanh on walking meditation, in which he said:
The practice of mindful walking is a profound and pleasurable way to deepen our connection with our body and the earth. We breath, take a mindful step, and come back to our true home.Thich Nhat Hanh
I love this quote . It sums up just what I feel about practising walking meditation in nature. It helps me to connect to the earth and in turn come back home to myself. I will include a link to the full article at the end of this post, in case you would like to read it. I found it to be really inspiring. It provides suggestions on how to practise walking meditation too.
We most commonly use the act of walking in our day to day lives to get us from A to B. But , more often than not, when we walk we walk in a state where we move unconsciously around our environment and daily lives. With 101 things on our minds, and 101 more things that we ‘have to do’, all occupying our thoughts, focus and attention. We move around often unaware or at best semi aware of the external landscape around which we move. And too, we move often unaware of our ‘inner’ landscape and how we feel. Disconnected from our feelings, bodily sensations and senses. Focussed in on our micro world of daily concerns, which can become all consumed by our thoughts and concerns, we miss the beauty, wonder and Truth that lies within and all around us.
We rush around, hurried, exhausted and stressed ignoring the sights and signs in nature. And to ignoring our innate, inner voice within. Both of which call us to stop and look, to pause and observe, to slow down and sense, feel and experience what life is, and indeed we are, actually really all about. We push to get ‘everything done’ when all around us nature calls to us. And our innate connection within, to the Source of our ‘Be’- ing, also calls us to stop. For just one moment to allow ourselves to let go of all that which we think needs to be done and to simply do what for many of us can be the hardest thing of all to do..and that is to simply ‘do nothing’ and allow ourselves to simply stop and ‘Be’. To allow ourselves to be in the stillness of life to see what lies beyond the ‘reality of living’ that we think is our real reality.
I have recently started to practise walking meditation again, on my morning walks, as a way of managing my anxiety. I find in that state of incessant worry that I am stuck in my head, ungrounded and disconnected from living my life fully and wholly. Practising walking meditation again, I am finding, helps to calm my mind and to ground, centre and re-balance my whole being. Creating a still point, on my morning walk to which I can reconnect and return during the day through my conscious reconnection and awareness to my movement and breath.
4i. Walking Meditation With The Breath
To practise a Walking Meditation With The Breath:
- I start to become aware of my breathing, slowing down my breath either to a slow 4×4 count (breathing in for the slow count of 4 and breathing out for the slow count of 4), or I also use a 3×5 count (breathing in for 3 and out for 5). I do this for about 2-3 minutes or until I feel myself starting to find presence in the moment rather than in my worries and concerns.
- I use a slow count to slow down my thoughts and racing mind and to slow down my pace of walking to calm my body.
- I don’t force the breath in any way and resume normal breathing if it doesn’t feel right for me at any given time of practice.
- If using a 4×4 breath, I breathe in slowly and take 4 slow steps and then breathe out slowly taking 4 slow steps. Counting the steps, and simultaneously the flow of my breath silently to myself.
- If using a 3×5 breath, I breathe in slowly and take 3 slow steps and breathe out slowly taking 5 slow steps. Again, Counting the steps and breath to myself.
- I practise for 5, 10, 15 minutes, however much time I have.
- Noticing if I become distracted or lose my count, I return my awareness back to the breath and the counting of my steps as and when I become lost in my thoughts.
I love this exercise as it combines breath and movement. The breath is so calming, in particular using the 4×4 breath pattern and longer out breath pattern in the 3×5 breath. Both are said in Yoga practice to be calming breaths for body and mind.
I always try to listen to my body and adjust the length of my breath and number of steps according to how I am feeling in the moment. And I always try to practise with self compassion, patience and understanding especially on my more challenging days.
4ii. Body Awareness Walking Meditation
To practise a Walking Meditation With Body Awareness:
- I find a quiet place to practise where I won’t be disturbed or where I won’t feel subconscious in any way about my practice. I become aware of breath, slowing down my breath to a slow 3×3 count (breathing in for the slow count of 3 and breathing out for the slow count of 3).
- Again, I don’t force the breath in any way and resume normal breathing if it doesn’t feel right for me at any given time of practice.
- As I breathe in I start my practice by slowly saying inwardly ‘I breathe in , 2 and 3 ’ and then as I breathe out I say slowly to myself ‘I breathe out 2 and 3’ continuing in this way for about 2-3 minutes or again until I feel myself starting to find presence in the moment rather than in my worries and concerns.
- I then start to become aware of each step that I take on the earth. As I place my right foot slowly onto the earth I feel the right heal come into contact with the earth first and then the soul of my foot and finally my toes.
- I feel the weight of my body transfer from my heal pads, ball pads to my toes pads with each step.
- As I breathe slowly to the count of 3 – I feel, on the count of 1 the heal pad come into contact with the earth, then the ball pad on the count of 2 and finally the toe pads on the count of three.
- If I become distracted or my mind wanders off I stop and start that step again. Breathing slowly deeply and smoothly into each step.
In his article, Thich Nhat Hanh said :
One way to practice walking meditation is to breathe in and take one step, and focus all your attention on the sole of your foot. If you have not arrived fully, 100 percent in the here and the now, don’t take the next step,Thich Nhat Hanh
- I breathe in as I step onto my right foot and breathe out as I step onto the left foot. Which foot I use for which part of the breath doesn’t really matter. It can change from day to day and is just what I feel most comfortable on the day but I try not to interchange or swap feet once I have started the exercise.
- Again, I practise for 5, 10, 15 minutes, however much time I have.
- If I become distracted or my mind wanders off, I return my awareness back to the breath and meditation practice.
- The more I practise, the more I am able to lengthen and slow my breath down further to a slower count.
This exercise is so calming. It really slows me down and I find as I practise this exercise more and more that it brings a greater level of mindful awareness into my everyday life. I slow down a lot more and am able to become so much more mindful and present in my body as I walk around doing my day to day activities.
I really like to practise this with bare feet on the earth as well. It’s equally nice to work at home in the garden or even around the house, in barefoot. If I am unable to go barefoot outside, I try to wear soft flexible shoes such as trainers, rather than sturdy walking boots, to allow me to really feel the movement and connection with my feet and the earth.
Why I love meditating in nature?
For me I find meditating in nature lowers my stress levels, it reduces my anxiety, improves my sleep, helps calm and still my mind increasing my focus & concentration. It helps me to slow down so that I can not only let go of the mental baggage that I carry around each day, but also it allow me to tune in more to my intuition and inner guidance. Meditating in nature helps me to connect with nature. It expands my everyday mindfulness to help me to stay in the present moment. But most of all it helps me to ground, centre in my body and to connect to my inner sense of self and Truth.
As promised here is the link to the walking meditation article by Thich Nhat Hanh.
And here are some of my favourite links to some nature sound tracks, there are many on Youtube!:
I love this channel: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCJuMbdKSMThk2RpALASyXVQ
And here is a lovely poem, from the article, which I would like to finish with …
Walking Meditation Poem
I take refuge in Mother Earth.
Every breath, every step
manifests our love.
Every breath brings happiness.
Every step brings happiness.
I see the whole cosmos in the earth.
I have really loved, talking about my love of nature with you today and, sharing with you some of my favourite ways that I connect with the earth and my truth self to find inner peace and ‘myself’ on my healing journey.
I hope, as always that my sharing has inspired you in some way.
Comment Below: As always I’d love to hear from you and would love for you to get in touch and share your thoughts and experiences on this subject and share any ways that connecting with nature may have helped you on your healing journey.
My love is with you as always.
Until next time, take care