By Gregori Savva, Sep 9 2015 06:35PM
When I am stressed and weary, but cannot easily find peace of mind or restfulness, I try to find a simple way of being in the present moment.
One of the Mindfulness exercises I find most absorbing of all is when I spend time on my own observing the exquisite details and intricacies of natural objects – such as the filigree of veins in a green leaf, the papery tongues of bark on a Silver Birch, the lacquered sheen of a Green Shield Beetle or the mackerel feathering of cirrocumulus clouds drifting overhead. Not only does this kind of exercise remind me of that wide-eyed sense of wonder I possessed as a child, but I feel enlivened by rediscovering the intrinsic beauty of nature.
Left to my own devices I could spend hours like this – exploring my environment like an old-style naturalist rapt in trance as I meditate and attune myself to the things around me I wouldn’t ordinarily notice. For this reason I have developed a number of practises I think everyone can relate to.
The first thing to do is spend a little time identifying and selecting natural objects on which you can focus your attention, while you breathe mindfully and quietly observe your sensations. Think of collecting things like stones with fascinating patterns and textures, shells from a beach, fallen leaves, coloured toadstools, a piece of bark, clusters of grass or flowers, and soon-to-be-liberated insects inside a glass jar. Choose objects that stimulate your five senses: the scent of roses, the sound of stones tapping together, the colours of autumn leaves, the texture of drift wood, even the taste of herbs and berries. Allow yourself to develop a deep sense of curiosity and interest. Choose a pleasant open space to sit or rest with your objects on a park, garden, beach, or cliff. Focus your mind and let your body relax.
As with most mindfulness practices you need to start with the breath. Find a relaxed comfortable rhythm and begin by focusing your attention on the sound and sensation of your breath; breathing from the diaphragm, inhaling through the nose and out through the mouth. Ensure you have stretched your muscles or rolled off any tensions in your neck, back and shoulders.
Once you have noticed you are beginning to settle, place your collection of natural objects in front of you and using only one of your senses transfer your attention onto them. Approach your objects with a playful attitude and using your imagination allow your mind to wander freely as you did when you were a child (like when you pictured images in the clouds or the embers of a fire). You might begin to notice a sense of calm and wonder, or an enlivened mind. This will keep you attached to the present moment and allow you to focus your attention on physical sensations. After a while you may begin to connect with yourself and feel a sense of oneness. You may even feel slightly transported and lose any sense of yourself as an embodied being. I offer Mindfulness at Counselling Twickenham (counseling Isleworth)