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Awake in the Wild

Whether we're in a pristine rainforest or our own backyard, says MARK COLEMAN, nature is always available to deepen our mindfulness.

When I moved from England to the U.S., I fell in love with America's vast wilderness and bountiful areas of natural beauty. As a longtime meditator, I had spent many years practicing indoors in meditation halls. But it wasn't until I began exploring the natural terrain here that I began to see what an invaluable support nature can be for our hearts, our minds, and our overall well-being. Seeking this support, I have spent much of the past two decades in an exploration of the relationship between meditation and nature. This has taken me to remote places in Alaska, ancient sandstone canyons in the southwest, and the rugged beauty of the Sierra Nevada.

No matter where I’ve traveled, I've received valuable teachings along the way. I've learned how nature allows for mindfulness to develop effortlessly and spontaneously. I’ve witnessed in myself and others how contact with the natural world brings a sense of peace, greater perspective, profound joy and wonder, and a deeper connection with life in all its forms. Being in nature in a contemplative way, especially when we are alone, provides the perfect arena to explore our mind and our interrelationship with the world.

Recently, I went solo backpacking in the eastern Sierra, a place that is beloved to so many backpackers. I walked up to high-altitude lakes where barely a soul had been since the winter snowmelt and I entered a pristine realm that reflected back the purity and luminous clarity of mind. The air was crisp and clean, and the water dazzled. Spending time in environments such as these allows the mind to dwell in a spacious lucidity that contrasts with the stuffiness of many meditation halls. Of course, the mind can touch these realms of clarity anywhere, even in a New York subway, but it’s a delight to see how the natural world so effortlessly invites spacious qualities to emerge.

That said, as anyone who knows the wilderness is aware, it’s never a bed of roses.


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