The first time I tried the Nature and Me exercise was in Bidwell Park in Northern California. My wife and I sat alongside an exquisite canyon stream lined by a lush forest. Mayflies danced above flowing water, large leaves fluttered with every breeze, and sounds of falling water sang throughout the canyon. This simple activity helped us become dynamically aware of the presence of life around us.
After playing Nature and Me, with our minds still calm and senses alert, we began walking along a streamside trail. Suddenly, in the shallow creek, we saw rocketing under water two brown, grayish forms: river otters!
Blending perfectly with the river rocks, the otters were difficult to see. For ten minutes we observed them frolicking and swimming. During this time, 40 people walked by; none of them saw the otters. We would have missed them, too, if we hadn’t practiced Nature and Me.
Psychologists have found that people have hundreds of self-talk thoughts every minute. The Nature and Me activity helps quiet restless thinking so we can open to life’s beauty.
How to Play:
Find a captivating spot outdoors, such as a flower-filled meadow or a forest glade. Sit down (or remain standing) and rest both hands, palm down, lightly on the thighs.
During this exercise you’re going to look for natural phenomena that capture your attention: for example, the texture of a tree’s bark, a field of flowers waving in the wind, or a bird calling deep in the forest. Don’t think about what you see or notice; just let your awareness flow from one observation to another.
Each time you see something, gently press a fingertip on your thigh to note the observation. Counting this way helps keep your concentration fully focused on your observation. Touching the leg also helps you feel that everything you see is united with you.
Use the ten fingertips on both hands to count your observations in batches of ten. Start with the left hand’s little fingertip and count across to your right hand, ending with its little finger. Go across as many times as you like. Two to three times (20 to 30 observations) work well.
Another way to play Nature and Me is to focus on one object like a tree or boulder that has many interesting features. With each observation, you will discover more and more detail about your subject: perhaps noticing its silhouette or shape, its color and texture, its immediate environment. The suggested number of observations for this version is 15 to 20. Children and adults who are more scientifically inclined usually prefer this second version of Nature and Me.
Nature and Me is a Sharing Nature Wellness activity.
© 2012 Joseph Cornell, All Rights Reserved
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