Mindfulness in Nature
By Melanie Leyden, Upper Elementary Teacher
Climb the mountains and get their good tidings. Nature’s peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees. The winds blow their freshness into you, and the storms their energy, while cares will drop off you like falling leaves.
—John Muir, Nature Writings
Nature can awaken us. The stillness and tranquility of nature, coupled with our silence, can calm even the most agitated among us. However, in our world, the value of silence has been exchanged for busyness and stimulation. Children and adults alike have such full, busy schedules.
We have the means to slow down just by being out in nature. Nature helps to calm the thinking mind. The body also feels more at ease outdoors, and our hearts begin to open and echo the peace of nature.
Being outdoors provides mental space and clarity. When we are outside in nature, we can connect with something much greater than ourselves. This connection helps us realize that we are never really alone. In fact, we are connected with life all around us.
At MCS, we are fortunate to have a beautiful outdoor campus. I have used our outdoor environment in many ways. In the fall, I introduced the concept of sit-spots. This activity involves students finding a spot in nature in which to sit, make observations, and just be. The focus of sit-spots can change from observing with one’s eyes to closing one’s eyes, listening, and noting the sounds one hears. I’ve used our forests to introduce our students to the subject of botany, how one leaf is connected to every leaf on the tree and to all the leaves of the forest, to the soil, the water, the air, and to us. In essence, all nature is interconnected.
Another activity that connects our children with nature is working in the gardens. Lastly, one of our greatest outdoor awakening experiences is our Solo. The Solo experience provides our 8th Years the opportunity to be in silence in nature for an afternoon, evening, and the following morning. The Solo experience gives our students the opportunity to examine how being in nature wakes us up to the deeper aspects of ourselves and helps us continue to answer the question, “Who am I?” Furthermore, the Solo acts as a rite of passage from MCS to high school and beyond. These moments in nature help our students understand their role and possible cosmic task in the greater scheme of things. Whilst doing so, they have the opportunity to taste the sweetness of freedom in the outdoors and to realize that things are okay as they are. They themselves are okay just as they are.
This summer, I invite you to get outside, do what you love — hike, bike, swim, kayak, raft, climb, garden, etc. — and use nature as a path to further your own self-discovery.