Mindfulness is one of those phrases that may have been a little over used in recent years with many life coaches, influencers and self proclaimed Gurus. All testifying that we need to be mindful in our life. I was keen to learn what mindfulness really was, and how I can apply it to my day to day wellbeing.

Last weekend I attended Woodland Classroom’s Mindfulness in Nature weekend. Spending two days and nights out in the woods learning more about how to be mindful in nature, with their great mix of nature connection and bushcraft.

What is Mindfulness?

The NHS definition of mindfulness is: “Mindfulness meditation involves sitting silently and paying attention to thoughts, sounds, the sensations of breathing or parts of the body, bringing¬†your attention back whenever the mind starts to wander.”

Simply put, mindfulness is about being 100% present in the moment. It is not about clearing your mind (which I find really hard to do) but in fact the opposite. It is more about focusing your mind on that moment in time which I found left no space for that other noise and wondering thoughts that tend to buzz around our head at any given time.

I was so awair of my own thoughts, sights, sounds and touch and smells around me like I never had before.

Lets talk about my Oak tree

On day two we had started the day with a little wood carving around the fire circle followed by a guided meditation around the 7 Attitudes of Mindfulness (there are actually 9 but we only covered 7) we were asked to find a standing spot in the woods and to spend just 4 minutes thinking about each attitude, one at a time each time returning back to the fire circle after each.

The Attitudes are: 1 Beginner’s Mind, 2 Non-Judging, 3 Acceptance, 4 Letting Go, 5 Trust, 6 Patience, 7 Non-Striving .

Mindfulness expert, Jon Kabat Zinn talks more about these Attitudes here

The course was run in a stunning ancient woodland with some trees that were more than 400 years old. I chose an old oak tree as my spot while I cleared my head and focused on each attitude and what they meant to me and also what it means in nature.

I could type another thousand words about what each attitude revealed about me. However the one that truly spoke to me was the Attitude of Acceptance, and letting go, which for me overlapped a lot (as they all do).

I stood at the base of this amazing tree that stood out from the rest of the forest, it’s trunk must have been 6 feet across, and everyone who had seen it in the skyline was taken aback with its grandeur and beauty. I then started to think about acceptance in my own life, my job, my health, myself and all of the things that the modern world had told me I needed. To me, that had caused dissatisfaction in my life “if i could just lose that bit of weight”, “if i could only get that new client at work…” the list went on!.

I focused my mind on the tree, how could that possibly relate to this magnificent tree that had stood throughout history. Then I really started to look, and I saw that close up the tree was covered in scraggy stumps where lims had fallen off, there were dead hanging branches on the inside of the canopy which could not be seen from the outside.

As I stood in the shade of the forest, it started to sink in that the reason this oak tree was so grand was because of all of the broken limbs and dead wood that makes way for new life. And if the tree had not accepted that the limb was not needed and not let it go that the tree would have looked ragged and may even have withered and died. The tree had simply accepted itself and let go of what it didn’t need. (ok i’m sure there are some tree experts cringing at my lack of botanical knowledge here… but you get the sentiment)

What did it teach me?

What I took away from it was that by accepting both what is good and uncomfortable in life, and by being willing to let those more toxic elements of our life go, we don’t need to push as hard, as our awareness of those things will naturally start to move us forward.

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