As I was taking yet another close up photo of a flower the other day I asked myself why do we always use nature pictures when we’re capturing mindfulness or mindful moments. When I post on our Go Mindfully Facebook page or website pictures of trees in blossom; morning dew dropping off the end of petals or the vast expanse of open space in my local park it feels right, an expression of a mindful way of being, of mindful seeing. But why, really? It’s a great question because it leads into the deep waters of what mindfulness is really about – ah, another nature allusion. It makes sense of many levels.
On one level pictures of flowers, green fields, mountain ranges and still water lakes are pleasant – they evoke a sense of wonder, relaxation and beauty. There is something about the simplicity of a standing tree, leaves glistening in sunlight, that makes us stop. Pause. It’s like the moment when we see a beautiful moon, or the sky full of sunrise colours. It stops us in our tracks, we take it in, we savour the beauty of it. When we are mindful, which simply expressed means aware of what’s happening in the present moment in a non reactive way, we pause for a moment. And in this precious pause a whole universe can open up to us. In the busyness of our lives, the rushing of thoughts that we are so often lost in, we might suddenly notice how amazing the world around us is. Instead of taking for granted our surroundings, the earth beneath our feet, the air we breath, the other human beings we come into contact with not to mention our own bodies we might actually wake up and think ‘Wow’….this is amazing, how I can look, listen, feel, taste, think!’ We might touch and allow ourselves to be touched, be moved, by what we are experiencing. This coming to our senses – these senses which are after all our nature, what are organism does – is the foundation of any mindfulness training. It is an invitation to discover the extraordinary in the ordinary, the delight of small things, all the sensual experiences we miss in the speed of our days.
On another level when we pause to take in the beauty in nature we also connect with being part of a world beyond our small idea of self. We take in the big blue sky, the vastness of a mountain and we get some perspective. Instead of perceiving through the filter of ‘me, me, me’ we realise we are part of something larger, a whole universe of living beings and plants. When we look closely we might also see we are not so different from the nature around us. We might resonate personally with the way nature is constantly changing, growing and also dying as flowers blossom and then fade to make way for next years growth. Observing these qualities in nature, which we so often enjoy and marvel at, can help us accept and be with these aspects of change in our own lives. When we look at nature we see our own nature : complex, extraordinary, mysterious and also impermanent. Going mindfully we can appreciate nature, and our own nature too…and feel grateful for it all.