Photo of a relaxed senior woman with earphones sitting on yoga mat on in park outdoors at sunset

Meditation al fresco

Experience a whole new kind of me time
4 MINUTE READ
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4 MINUTE READ
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Want to enjoy every minute of the season? Meditate outside.

Summer always seems too short, doesn’t it? We welcome June, and the next thing you know it’s September. But you can make the most of the season by pausing your make-every-minute-count, fear-of-missing-out life and enjoying five to 10 minutes of meditation outdoors each day.

There’s a reason why many meditation centres are found in the country, often surrounded by fields and forests. When we meditate in nature, we respond to the natural world — and experience a whole new kind of me time.

Why meditate

We live busy lives and often burn the candle at both ends. Not good, for mind or body.

“In meditation, we focus on the ‘monkey mind’ — that racing mind that’s always wanting to think,” explains Melinda Jaramillo, a yoga teacher with Yoga Tree in Toronto. Meditation quiets that monkey mind so we experience a sense of detachment.

It’s hard to focus on that sense of detachment when we’re always thinking, What’s next?

“Meditation teaches us that there is no ‘what’s next,’” says Jaramillo. “It’s right here and now.”

Where to meditate

Find a quiet spot in a park. Sit by a stream or a river. Often, meditation is combined with an outdoor yoga class. “I’ve done a yoga/meditation class in a garden,” says Jaramillo. “It’s quite impactful, because not only are you meditating and in nature, you’re taking in all the sights and sounds, the fresh air, the birds singing. It’s just a completely encompassing experience.”

If you’re surrounded by high-rises and can’t get to a green space, create your own nature. Meditate on your balcony or your porch — you’ll still feel the warmth of the sun and smell the scent of your potted flowers or garden.

If you want to calm your monkey brain but can’t sit still, try an outdoor walking meditation. “It’s an opportunity to be out in nature and to clear any racing thoughts and come back to a sense of awareness,” says Jaramillo.

“The mind is such a powerful thing that when you use visualization in meditation, it really does help to take you out of the current state.” — Melinda Jaramillo

Benefits

Studies have shown that meditation offers a range of mental health benefits, including a reduction in stress, decreased anxiety and depression, and increased efficiency.

Meditation outside offers physical benefits, too. According to one 2019 study, spending at least two hours a week in nature has a profound effect on health and well-being, including your breathing. A 2016 study examined the relationship between local greenery and mortality risk. The study found that those exposed to more greenery in their neighbourhoods were 34 per cent less likely to die from respiratory illnesses.

And chances are, meditating outside will help you sleep better, too. Sunshine and fresh air can shorten the time it takes you to drop off and can improve your quality of sleep.

How to meditate

Ditch the usual indoor meditation accessories like a yoga pillow or bolster. And forget the lotus — cross-legged — position.

Instead, sit or lie down on the grass or lean against a tree. Walk along the beach or through a forest.

And if you’re far from green pastures? Try visualization as you sit on your balcony or your porch. See yourself walking down a winding path in the woods, experiencing the smell of wild flowers and the chirps of birds and feeling the dappled sunlight on your shoulders. Or picture yourself walking along a sandy beach, listening to lapping waves and feeling the gentle breeze ruffle your hair.

“The mind is such a powerful thing that when you use visualization in meditation, it really does help to take you out of the current state,” says Jaramillo.

You can also repeat a mantra (a positive word or phrase) in your meditation, whether sitting or walking. Say it out loud or silently in your head.

“I think there’s great power in savouring the summer, even more so when you’re meditating, because meditation teaches us to be in the moment,” says Jaramillo. “The more we can enjoy the moment and relish those magical summer feelings, the more we appreciate them.” And maybe this year, summer might not fly by.

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