Taking Mindfulness Outside

Mindfulness has become a bit of a buzzword these days.  When I first started meditating last year, I struggled with the idea of mindfulness of the breath.  Deep breathing can be useful when I’m feeling tense or anxious, but as an anchor for mindfulness, I just felt bored.  I don’t expect mindfulness to be entertaining, but if I feel bored then that starts to stir up negative thoughts, which isn’t very productive.  Similarly, I find it can be useful to do a body scan to check in with what’s happening, but it just doesn’t do it for me as an extended mindfulness focal point.

Eventually, I realized that nature was my perfect mindfulness target.  First I noticed that I could sit and gaze at my little guinea pigs going about their silly simple lives and the rest of my mind would go on mute.  Then I noticed I could get the same effect if I was out for a walk and listened to the birds singing or watched the wind rustle the leaves of a tree.  

I think this is easier as a mindfulness anchor for me than breathing because the locus of control is shifted.  Breathing is under my control, so trying to focus on it bores me.  Stimuli from nature are not under my control, and so I tend to watch and listen with an attitude of wonderment.  This is nothing earth-shattering, but I like to try to understand why certain things work for me and certain things don’t.

If I think about what I want mindfulness to accomplish, I want it to allow me to be grounded in the present and temporarily turn off the mental background noise.  Being mindful of the little things in nature that I experience outside of my body seems to get me there much more effectively than trying to be mindful of what’s going on inside my body.  So I’m going to stick with what works rather than trying to be “successful” with the whole breath thing.

Do you practice mindfulness?  What works for you?

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44 thoughts on “Taking Mindfulness Outside”

    1. I think it’s so important that we recognize what doesn’t work for us. There’s a lot of things that get promoted as being things everyone should do for their mental health but nothing is going to work for everyone.

  1. I do practice mindfulness but now after reading your post you have reminded me to practice it more often! I love going outside and just enjoying nature and noticing the little things in life and appreciating them. I do mediate sometimes too but I find that a little trickier!

  2. I like to listen to mindfulness videos, it’s easier for me with that guidance. I also find nature to be soothing, it’s easier to do “nothing” when out in nature. When I’m not up to going outside I sit by a window. I also practice “wakeful rest” and find that it helps me process my thoughts.

  3. Sounds like it works for you so keep with it.
    I’ve had variable success with mindfulness, I like the theory but feel it’s counterproductive to focus so intently on one thing, breathing or whatever. My favourite mindfulness thing is standing under the shower, eyes closed observing the temperature, noise and feel of the water.

  4. I used to try breathing meditation/mindfulness, but I really struggled with it. A while back I was thinking that (a) I should get back into mindfulness and (b) I should concentrate more when praying. It was a paradigm shift moment when I realised I could combine (a) and (b) by bringing a mindful focus to the words, particularly now my Hebrew is mostly good enough that I can understand Hebrew words without needing to translate in my head, at least with the relatively small and straightforward vocabulary of the liturgy. I’ve still got a long way to go with it, but as an experiment it seems to be working well.

  5. I do practice mindfulness by meditating in the morning and early evening in order to relax and unwind after a full day. I also, like you, engage with my pets. Peanut (Parrot) is very vocal, and we talk and sign a great deal which really does make me very happy and calm. I also have my Betta which I enjoy watching swim around in his little world. He is a big-time calm for me. Plus, I try to keep positive with all my might.

  6. Another excellent post Ashley and a great topic – mindfulness is definetly spoken about more these days than previous generations and yet it has been with us since the dawn of time in many respects.

    I also strongly agree that each person must find their own inner peace or sanctum how best suits them.

    My partner Suze practices many forms – most mornings she is meditating, if not that then l hear the occasional hum or is it hom or maybe even an om, and if not that then she is spiritually enganed in the finer arts of yoga.

    i tried meditating but found it utterly boring, l have tried listening to whale song, crickets buzzing and elephants farting and none of that works. As to yoga well absolutely l am a yogi well that’s not true but l can and could watch Suze at it for hours! I feel totally relaxed at that and very refreshed, but hey that might just be me.

    Personally however, writing, or composting, l know what defuq? But principally writing or my most favourite casting as in casting my mind around at 100 miles an hour and keeping my stimulation high, for me that is the best way of centering my focus.

    But everyone is different, if in doubt, people really should try the elephant farting discs, they have a way of motivating your ‘scents’.

  7. Really loved this! I’ve been somewhat put off mindfullness after the hype and a disastrous experience with CBT but reading real and honest posts like this make me so keen to give it a go! Char // https://lunarchar.com/ xx

  8. I don’t practice mindfulness because it reminds me of the cult I was tied up with for a while. They believed that people who don’t practice mindfulness are inferior, as are people who take drugs, drink alcohol, or sleep more than eight hours.

    But here’s my thinking on it: it’s great to keep your inner chatter positive. Happy thoughts!! I achieved this by devoting years of my life to watching TV comedies. (I can’t even begin to imagine what the cult people would have to say about that…. “Time wasted! Weakened will power!”) It gave me a sense of humor, and now all my thoughts are humorous. I believe lighthearted, funny thoughts are the best kind to have, and if you can pull it off, you don’t need to be mindful. (Trust me–living inside my head offers 24-hour entertainment. You can’t really put a price on that.)

    Maybe what I’m proposing is more like cognitive therapy? Laugh at yourself, I say. Nothing’s funnier.

    1. Yeah I would imagine an experience like that would turn you off a whole lot of things. I’m also a fan of watching comedy to help lighten things up.

  9. Mindfulness works for me whereas other forms of meditation failed. I had an instructor for one hour per week for one year. Maybe they are more efficient methods but this one works for me up to a certain extent. Then medications need to step in.

    1. Definitely. And I’m not convinced that one form of meditation or mindfulness is the right one; I think we’ve all got to figure out what fits best into our overall treatment plan.

  10. Great post. I do practice mindfulness. I dont have great success with just sitting watching my breath, but like you I find what works. It is usually outside, yoga, or just petting my dog and cats. Also, trying to be present in whatever Im doing. Im DEFINITELY a work in progress. 😊

  11. Great insight! I genuinely feel that for every minute I practice formal breathing meditation, I discover mindful moments throughout the day! I love when I can feel the formal practice naturally seep into my life.

  12. I practice meditation every day. It’s been 21 days since I started. I use music to concentrate but I mostly focus on my breathing. It’s good that you found such an interesting to be mindful. I usually meditate with my eyes closed but I know it can be done with your eyes closed. Thank you for sharing your thoughts. <3

  13. You practice mindfulness in a similar way to me. I go for walks, photograph nature, and watch the birds and animals. Being in the present moment is indeed a gift! Each moment fills you with a sense of how lucky you are.

  14. Hi! First of all, thank you for talking about mental health. It’s so incredibly important to give this topic attention and to break the taboos. Secondly, I recognize your way of practicing mindfulness. I do formal meditations every day, but I love to go out in nature and just feel, and watch, and listen. Those are very relaxing moments. I’ve actually written a post about it on my new blog that I recently started (The Orange Cocoon): https://theorangecocoon.wordpress.com/2018/06/13/walk-in-the-woods/ Another way I practice mindfulness is to focus on touch, so the soles of my feet on the floor, or my clothes against my skin. Have you tried that?

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