3 tips to turn your Hike into Meditation
As anyone who spends time hiking knows, being outside cultivates a sense of joy and peace you just can’t find anywhere else. And research is validating that every day!
Forest bathing, shinrin-yoku (森林浴) in Japanese, the practice of spending time in the forest to promote physical and emotional health, is all the rage these days.
And there is a reason why. When we are outside in nature, we experience ourselves, the world around us, and sense there is something greater than us. We feel more connected to ourselves and others. Research also tells us that spending time in nature alleviates stress, anxiety, depression, while it boosts creativity and sharpens focus. Next time you take a hike, try deepening your experience, making it a meditation.
Here are a few ways to start. The key in all of these is to cultivate presence and intention to your experience, making it more than just a hike!
1 – Tune into Sensation
When you are outdoors (or anywhere really), it is an excellent opportunity to tap into your senses. Feel the air on your face, smell the grass, flowers, and trees, hear the river flowing, touch the rocks and moss. Tuning into our other senses allows the mind to focus on the experience of that moment. The goal of meditation is to be in the here and now, just as it is– and this is the ticket to do that in nature! Want a break from the 60,000-80,000 thoughts we have each day? Focusing on a sensory experience, allow yourself to truly drop into the experience of the moment.
Give it a try! Bonus: Close your eyes when you take in other senses. We take in at least 70% of sensory experience through our eyes. Closing them immediately sharpens and heightens your other sensory experiences.
2 – One Step At A Time:
My favorite Thich Nhat Hanh quote is “Smile, breathe, and go slowly.” This is so helpful during long walks, hikes, and journeys. The present moment is truly the only moment. By focusing on one step at a time, we allow ourselves to drop right into the experience and be there now.
Neuro Tip: During walking, tune into the rhythm of each foot stepping up and stepping down, up down, up down. This is great for bilateral stimulation, balancing both spheres in the brain and soothing the central nervous system. Plus, it feels good to tap into the body moving.
3 – Enjoy The View
Research validates over and over the positive benefits of being in nature. It decreases cortisol, our stress hormone, and helps regulate our central nervous systems. Also, being in awe is found to boost our sense of joy and reminds us we are part of something bigger and greater than ourselves. Plus, the view is well earned – so soak it in!
Heart Centered Tip: Take in your view, hold your hand over your heart and breathe all the feelings of the experience into your heart center. Now all the experiences of the moment are available to you at any time!