One of the ways we can most deeply experience and tune in to nature is by gardening—spending intentional time to nourish the natural world. When we garden, we feel the tactile qualities of the greenery and the dirt, and get a close-up view of the insects, petal patterns, and other tiny details we’d usually skim over. And if you don’t have a garden, all it takes to zoom in to nature is to bring that same kind of intentionality to observing. Nature is abundant with nourishment, and even some surprises, if only we take our time and open our awareness to what it has to offer. Here are some tips from Karin Evans on how to best appreciate the nature around you.
How to Mindfully Appreciate Nature
- Slow your steps. Take your pace down a notch. Think saunter or strolling for pleasure, not getting to a destination in a hurry. Slow down and enjoy.
- Savor through your senses. Tune in using your whole body: the warm air on your face, the sound of birds, the fragrances of flowers and earthy smell of soil, the texture of leaves. Feel each sensation.
- Think small. A photographer for National Geographic once spent time lying on his stomach in the desert, photographing flowers he called “pinhead flowers,” blooms that were the size of a pencil dot. When he enlarged the photographs, they were stunning.
- Notice tiny details. Author Jane Anne Staw wrote Small after she had an epiphany about concentrating too much on the big picture and missing the small one. One day she noticed a single dried leaf on the sidewalk, and focused all her attention on that leaf. “Suddenly I felt awareness course through me…my whole body hummed with pleasure….”
- Change your point of view. Poet Mary Oliver said that she could walk the same path every day and always see something new. Vary your gaze: Look up, look down, sweep your eyes from left to right. And use more than just your vision. Listen to the crunch of your feet as you walk.
- Go lightly. When you are out in nature, nothing is required but your presence. Put away your need to do anything and completely mute your cell phone. Unlike electronics, plants don’t demand us to click on anything; they signal subtly, so look for their clues.
- Stay awhile. Biologist David Haskell spent a year observing one square meter of earth in order to write The Forest Unseen: A Year’s Watch in Nature. Pick your spot, get comfortable, and resist the urge to move on. The garden will reward you and so will the rest of life.