Skip to content


Jon Kabat-Zinn, one of the foremost thinkers in the field, describes mindfulness as “paying attention in a particular way; on purpose, in the present moment, and nonjudgmentally.” Focused intention, being in the moment, and accepting whatever is in your awareness without judgment form the core of mindfulness practice. But what’s the point?

Ferns backlit with Sun - Devon

Mindfulness developed as a way to understand what it is to be alive and to reduce unnecessary suffering. Although it’s been practised for thousands of years, Western science has only recently started to appreciate how powerful mindfulness is. Research has shown that mindfulness helps promote well-being and is useful in managing stress, depression, addiction and many other aspects of mental distress. While there’s a lot of research into why mindfulness is so powerful, looking at it as an embodied pathway of connection is very revealing. The thirteenth-century Zen master Dogen recognized that the mind and body are one system. Cognitive neuroscience confirms his insight, but Dogen went further, asserting that there is no separation between the bodymind and the world: “the entire universe is the true human body”. Some of the smartest thinkers of modern times would agree with Dogen: Merleau-Ponty, Gendlin, Varela and Bateson are key examples. Dogen came to that conclusion after years of meditation, and anyone with a consistent mindfulness practice will gradually become aware of a profound sense of connection to a wider reality.

I’ve prepared a few meditations you might like to try.

The Endorphin Effect is a bodymind mediation devised by Willam Bloom. Although it almost certainly involves a number of different hormones, I’m using William’s original name for this approach.

The Elements Meditation draws inspiration from the four classical Elements – Air, Fire, Water, and Earth. It works best if you listen to it outside, as it’s intended to help reveal your intimate connection with the natural world.

I’ve recorded a more conventional meditation on the breath. It’s a short introduction to classic meditation, suitable for anyone.

I’ve also recorded a longer meditation on the body, breath, and sound. It’s 15 minutes long and offers a variety of meditation experiences.

clouds and sun over a calm sea

Why practice mindfulness in nature?

It’s warm, peaceful and comfortable indoors, so why would you want to take your meditation practice into nature? I practice both indoors and in nature, and I find that each approach offers different gifts.

Mindfulness in nature often uses the same exercises as indoor practice, but involving nature can make a big difference. Some kinds of natural environments can help you be more mindful: Birdsong, the wind in the trees, or the gentle sound of a stream provide sensory stimuli that are effortlessly fascinating and support quiet contemplation.

Nature provides ample opportunities to practise your mindfulness skills. Mindfulness is concerned with focusing our attention on the present moment, and nature provides a rich variety of sensory experiences. Nature can also offer us lessons in acceptance, help us become less judgemental and – by revealing our profound interconnectedness – facilitate greater compassion.

The Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh explains that the purpose of our existence is “to awaken from our illusion of separateness.” I’ve spent many years trying to find ways to help people awaken from that illusion and to realize the glorious truth; we are profoundly connected to nature. Simply being in nature can help deepen awareness of our interconnectedness, but mindfulness exercises are immensely helpful. After years of facilitating nature connection workshops, I’ve realized that almost everything I teach involves mindfulness.

My PhD research found that meditation was a common pathway to deep nature connection and that it inspired environmental action. Other researchers have found similar results: Mindfulness enhances the impact of our experiences in nature and strengthens nature connectedness. Indoor meditation practice doesn’t seem to have the same impact. Although it encourages people to ‘think green’, that often doesn’t translate into pro-environmental behaviour.

If you’re already involved in environmental activism, I’d highly recommend trying mindfulness in nature: It can help support you and your work.

For more, see my mindfulness in nature website.