It wasn’t long ago that our ancestors were living according to the earth’s seasons and cycles. Today, most of us (myself included) are more familiar with corporate logos and social media companies than the wildlife and vegetation growing right outside our doors. We’ve alienated ourselves from the natural world. Our modern environment—think fluorescent lights, stale air, computer screens—is dulling our senses and contributing to major health concerns and the global environmental crisis. It’s about time we reassessed, recalibrated, and reset. It’s time we got back to our roots.
By stepping outdoors, lifting our noses to the sky, smelling the air, taking a long view, and becoming students of nature, we can learn to respond skillfully to real-life conditions on earth. We need to be aware and alert, and we need certain skills to help us discern the wisdom of nature and stay close to it.
With time, the following practice will transform how you enter the outdoors. Bring awareness to your rewilding (which is a return to our essential nature—an attempt to reclaim something of what we were before we used words like “civilized” to define ourselves) to be mindful of your surroundings and how you show up. In time, you will grow into a comfort and a belonging on the land.
PRACTICE GETTING OUTSIDE
Before embarking on a hike through a forest, meadow, or other wild space, take a few moments to center yourself. Close your eyes. Take some slow, deep breaths. Allow your exhalation to be twice as long as your inhalation. Let go of anything rattling around in your head—whatever stress or worry you are transmitting. Tune into the sounds, sensations, and rhythms of the land around you. Stretch out with your feelings and sense the aliveness of the earth. Know that the beings that call this land home are paying close attention to what is happening here: They have to; their lives depend on it. Your presence will be felt and communicated far and wide. Notice the birds and the chipmunks—the little creatures we sometimes consider background noise. In a relaxed way, be curious, and with your eyes closed, observe what is happening around you. Take a few minutes to be with it all.
Then, open your eyes and look around. Simply observe everything while expressing your gratitude and respect for the land. Set a strong intention to stay present and connected to your breath, and create as little disturbance as possible. Let each footstep be an experience of soulful connection with the planet, each breath a rite of interbeing with the holy winds that blow.
Adapted from REWILDING: Meditations, Practices, and Skills for Awakening in Nature, by Micah Mortali. Sounds True, December 2019. Reprinted with permission.
About the author
Micah Mortali is director of the Kripalu Schools, one of the largest centers for yoga-based education in the world. In 2018, he founded the Kripalu School of Mindful Outdoor Leadership. As a mindful wilderness guide, 500-hour Kripalu Yoga teacher, and popular meditation teacher, Mortali has been leading groups in natural and retreat settings for 20 years.