I have just returned from Baja again (earlier this year I was teaching my Awake in the Wild Teacher Training there), after teaching for 3 weeks. I had the pleasure of teaching 2 Awake in the Wild kayaking and meditation wilderness retreats on the Sea of Cortez, and I wanted to share about the dimensions of that kind of practice. But more about that in a minute.
You will also find in this email news about an opportunity for you to participate in Mindful in May, about the nature retreat that I will be leading in July (this is the only nature retreat that still has spots open this year) and the beginning of my next Awake in the Wild Teacher Training in October, and about my recent article on Nature, Resilience and Climate Change that is in the April issue of Mindfulmagazine.When people ask me about my kayak wilderness retreats in Baja, Mexico they sometimes assume it’s like a vacation. This year that could not have been further from the truth. Practicing meditation on a silent retreat can be at times quite challenging and a really intensive practice. Not secluded from the harshness of elements, one’s practice and equanimity can be tested! This year, during the first retreat we were sitting on exposed beaches facing 30-35 mile cold hour winds with very little protection night and day. “Did he say ‘cold’?,” you ask. Wilderness meditation retreats can be surprisingly cold and windy, especially when sedentary most of the day, and this is where our practice comes to bear fruit. It was inspiring to see how everyone really showed up to practice in the face of challenging conditions. One participant reported that this was the most significant and transformational week of their lives. Most people did not get what they had expected would accompany the retreat – calm seas, warm sunny days, still nights and chances to paddle, swim and snorkel. Instead we meditated, sitting and walking and doing all kinds of various nature-based practices in the wind and cold. As a participant said, it was profoundly transformative to find equanimity, acceptance and presence when things don’t go according to plan or meet expectations. And yet, this is often where we grow the most, in adverse conditions, where the deepest insights arise. It really was an intensive meditation retreat in every sense of that term.The second retreat was more typical for Baja as the storm front that plagued the first retreat changed. Instead we were blessed with warm sun, still waters, cool gentle breezes and the opportunity to practice opening to joy, wonder and connection.
The key with nature practice is being willing to meet and respond to whatever conditions arise with wisdom, awareness and kindness, which of course is the same principle in life. How much do we create suffering by our resistance and contention with what is and how do we cultivate peace when we release reactivity and meet what is just as it is.If you are interested in joining one of my nature retreats this year, my July Awake in the Wild Meditation in Nature Retreat in Ward, CO still has openings. And if you are called to teach mindfulness in nature, you can apply to my Awake in the Wild Teacher Training, which starts in October. Details on each are below. All of my other retreats are full with wait lists.
If you are looking for mindfulness practices that you can do at home, I want to encourage you to register for Mindful in May. Mindful in May is a one month meditation challenge and fundraiser where you’ll learn from leading meditation teachers and wellbeing experts on how to train your brain towards greater well-being, productivity and resilience, all while giving you the chance to transform the lives of those in need of clean, safe drinking water.And lastly, I wanted to share my article on how a contemplative approach to nature is a support for resilience in the face of climate change.
|I was recently asked to write a piece about practicing in nature for the April issue of Mindful magazine. More and more I’ve been exploring how practicing in nature can continue to be restorative and healing while we also grapple with the destruction and devastation of climate change. How do we hold this dichotomy with compassion and wisdom?|
Excerpts from the article are below – courtesy of Mindful – but to read the full article you can find it on news stands now or online with a subscription to Mindful: https://www.mindful.org/grieving-for-and-loving-our-planet/I hope you enjoy it.
It has been a long day at my desk, staring at a computer; my brain cells feel wrung dry with too much cogitation. Late afternoon, the fog has lifted on the hilltops above my house and I decide to venture out on a hike to clear my head and connect with what I love most: this pulsing earth.
As I start out on one of my favorite trails, it takes a while for my senses to open up, but soon I feel embraced into a luminous world, welcomed by innumerable shades of green, tall grasses shimmering, trees swaying in the breeze, and shafts of sunlight peering through the thick canopy. Below me, a family of quail dart in and out of the bushes.
As I crest the hill, I feel the invigoration of the cool wind, blown fresh from the Pacific. I inhale deeply and smell the bite of the salty ocean air, which feels like a homecoming, familiar and welcoming. It seems to blow the dullness from my mind, and I sense how nature invites us to connect and feel our way into a larger sense of self.”
We tend to think of consciousness as skin bound, brain tethered. However, in nature we can sense something vaster — and that something larger senses us. And from here our perception and understanding transforms: We start to think from this bigger perspective.How do we continue to open our hearts to the beauty of the natural world when doing so means we also feel the deep pain of losing what we love?
These times require our mindfulness practice to hold a wide view. It asks that we hold the harsh reality of the eco-crisis, the beauty of what is still here and thriving, and simultaneously the uprising of ordinary people working all over the planet to steward, protect, and preserve the earth in sustainable ways. I have walked through scorched forests. I can look at the blackened trunks and feel a tender grief. And I can also focus on the emerald green shoots that rise our of the ashes. Both are true. Both demand our attention.
To be awake today is to learn how to hold paradox in your mind and dwell in ambiguity. Indeed, the question I hear from many people is: How do we hold the pain of the earth at this time? My answer is simply to grieve. To let yourself feel the depth of the pain and let the tears flow. Allowing grief to move through allows movement and a responsiveness to rise out of those tear-stained ashes. It helps melt the frozen numbness that thwarts effective action.”
To read the full article you can find it on news stands now or online with a subscription to Mindful: https://www.mindful.org/grieving-for-and-loving-our-planet/