Take it Outside: Practice Outdoor Meditation

This entry was posted on Jul 26, 2019 by Charlotte Bell.

Outdoor Meditation

I recently posted a blog about practicing outdoor yoga. In it, I shared a favorite quote about the natural world: “The earth is the guru of the body. The sky is the guru of the mind.” Our environment is rich with learning opportunities. Outdoor meditation can tune us into our surroundings and reawaken gratitude.

Outdoor yoga and outdoor meditation share some of the same considerations. But there are differences too. In asana practice, uneven ground can be a hazard to balance, and getting dirty is far more likely when you’re moving around. Outdoor meditation doesn’t share these possible challenges.

Outdoor meditation gives us a direct experience of the sky as “guru of the mind.” The outdoors is unpredictable, and rich with sensory experiences. But like the sky, awareness can take it all in without losing its clarity and vastness.

We usually think of meditation as synonymous with sitting. But especially when we practice outdoors, we can enjoy the alternative meditation postures. These include walking, standing and lying down.

How to Practice Outdoor Meditation

Outdoor meditation is similar to outdoor yoga practice in one essential way. When we meditate outdoors, it’s important to open our senses to what’s around us. Similar to the practice of “forest bathing,” outdoor meditation invites us to drink in all that’s coming in through our senses—and it’s a lot when you’re outside. Here are some ways to explore outdoor meditation:

Sitting:  Find a piece of level ground. Using a meditation cushion or bench can help you maintain a sustainable posture. Our Sukasana Cushion is a lightweight, compact option for practicing outdoors. If sitting on the ground is not your preference, a camp chair will work just fine.

  1. Begin by settling into your seat. You can keep your eyes open or closed. Feel the contact points in your body.
  2. Open your sense of hearing, allowing sounds to come and go as they naturally do. Take care not to reach out for the sound. Simply allow it to come to you.
  3. Notice if there are sensations of the sun or a breeze on your skin. Let the breezes come and go as well.
  4. Notice any smells or tastes that arise as well.
  5. Imagine all these sensations coming and going like clouds in the sky, in the vast space of awareness.

Walking: Walking meditation allows us to pay attention to the dynamics of movement and balance. When we practice walking meditation, it’s important to keep the eyes open. It’s easy to lose balance with the eyes closed, not to mention that it’s easy to trip over or run into an unexpected obstacle on our path. In walking meditation, we slow down our movements so that we can tune into the more subtle aspects of walking. Here’s a post that explains walking meditation in detail. Practice steps 2 through 5 above while you walk.

Standing: I truly love standing meditation for its grounding qualities. Sometimes walking meditation can seem overly stimulating. And some of us get drowsy in sitting meditation. Standing meditation strikes the perfect balance. It allows us to stop and listen with openness and receptivity. The energy it takes to maintain a standing posture can help clear the fog of drowsiness. Practice in Tadasana (Mountain Pose), and use steps 2 through 5 above to guide your awareness.

Lying Down: As with outdoor yoga practice, meditating in a lying-down position takes a bit of setup. But what’s lovely about lying down on the ground is that it allows you to tune into the energy of the earth beneath you. If you’re on grass, feel free to lie down directly on the ground. If you’re not worried about dirt, you can lie down directly onto the forest floor or a sandy beach. But feel free to place a yoga mat underneath you. Then allow yourself to sink into the earth. Imagine being completely supported by the earth as you then open your senses to all the other wonders around you.

About Charlotte Bell
Charlotte Bell discovered yoga in 1982 and began teaching in 1986. Charlotte is the author of Mindful Yoga, Mindful Life: A Guide for Everyday Practice and Yoga for Meditators, both published by Rodmell Press. Her third book is titled Hip-Healthy Asana: The Yoga Practitioner’s Guide to Protecting the Hips and Avoiding SI Joint Pain (Shambhala Publications). She writes a monthly column for CATALYST Magazine and serves as editor for Yoga U Online. Charlotte is a founding board member for GreenTREE Yoga, a non-profit that brings yoga to underserved populations. A lifelong musician, Charlotte plays oboe and English horn in the Salt Lake Symphony and folk sextet Red Rock Rondo, whose DVD won two Emmy awards in 2010.