In his book “Stillness Speaks“, Eckhart Tolle writes “We also need nature to show us the way home, the way out of the prison of our own minds….. When walking or resting in nature, honor that realm by being there fully. Be still. Look. Listen.”
This morning, the Mindful Moments in Nature workshop was a wonderful opportunity for parent and child to experience exactly this – moving out of the mind and into the present moment. There was a focus on using our 5 senses (sight, touch, hearing, smell and even taste!) to bring awareness to the present moment, with kindness and compassion. Being part of the “My Parent and Me!” series, this workshop also focused on strengthening the relationship between parent and child, using guided mindfulness exercises to connect with each other and nature.
It was a beautiful day in Newlands Forest with the weather just perfect for the occasion. Not too cold and not too hot. And although I have been loving all the rain we have had recently, I was relieved that it was clear!
We started off by exploring our sense of sight. Each parent-child pair received an exploration pack including a clipboard, paper, coloured pens and a magnifying lens. The task was to explore and draw all the various shapes that they could see around them. Each pair worked at their own pace observing, tracing, colouring-in and chatting. One of the comments afterwards was “It’s amazing what you see when you look!”. The magnifying lens was a great addition, in that it added another layer to the experience, by being able to see in more detail things that we would normally only glance at.
I led the group to a beautiful spot slightly off the main path, where we felt truly surrounded by nature. After some refreshments, we moved onto our sense of touch by doing some mindful artwork. It was different to traditional artwork in that there were no crayons, pencils, paints and even no paper! I explained that we were going to make pictures using pieces of nature around us. I asked everyone to pay attention to how each item felt. Spiky or soft. Rough or smooth. Sticky or dry. Ticklish or prickly. I suggest that if something they wanted to use was still growing, that they build their picture around that item instead of picking it. The results were fantastic. There was a fairy house, a boat, a forest man and even a hedgehog sanctuary! A lovely, creative exercise that fully uses the imagination whilst exploring the sense of touch at the same time.
It was then time for some mindful breathing and relaxation. I did a simple breath awareness meditation with the group. Not always an easy one for young children when there isn’t a story attached, but they all did well. It was also nice to see the closeness between parent and child with most of the children lying / sitting on or very close to mom or dad. It is not often that our children are awake and still, and wanting to lie quietly next to us so it was great to see.
We then moved onto our senses of taste and smell. We started with the traditional mindful eating exercise using a raisin. I always find it amazing how a raisin eaten slowly and with purpose can taste so much nicer than a handful of raisins eaten mindlessly. The children then got quite excited when I told them that they had to blindfold their parent, and come choose some food pieces for their parent to smell and taste. I think the parents might have all felt a bit unsure at this point, but I assured them I hadn’t added any nasties to the taste test! The tables were then turned and each parent got to choose some goodies for their child to taste.
After the taste exploration exercise, it was time for some sound awareness. Each pair received a piece of paper with an x in the centre. I asked them to imagine that their ears could hear in a giant circle around them and that they were sitting at the spot marked x. I asked them then to draw around the x with pictures or words, describing what they could hear (e.g. the sound of a bird or the wind), in the direction that they could hear it. There was a great variety of sounds, ranging from a helicopter overhead to some singing cicadas. And Newlands Forest is always filled with beautiful birdsong so it was lovely to be able to sit and listen.
Then it was time to end off the special morning in nature. The children each had a chance to share what they had enjoyed the most and we finished with 3 deep breaths together. Never under estimate the value of one-on-one time with your child. Each moment of undivided attention spent with your precious one is a gift – both to them and to you. In the words of Thich Nhat Hanh: “The most precious gift we can offer others is our presence. When mindfulness embraces those we love, they will bloom like flowers.”