Presence and Nature
Most professionals and more than 50% of the global population now live in large densely-populated cities. To a greater or lesser extent, we all know that heightened presence is directly supported by nature. Being in the mountains, walking through a shaded forest and taking time by the sea all nurture the soul in a way that urban environments cannot. This is why we tend to focus our holiday time around places of natural beauty that restore us.
There is a distinct truth and reality to nature that is deeply resonant with the fullness of a human being. Recent studies now indicate that time spent in natural environments may also be an effective population-wide strategy in the prevention of mental ill health issues.
We are natural beings.
We do not come into this world, we come out of it.
Spending time with those aspects of our world that resonate most energetically with the energy and mystery of life, feels good. The simple truth is that we should do it more often and if possible every day.
This is obviously more of a challenge for those of us that live in the city. I live in North London. I am very lucky to have a beautiful dog. I walk him most days in the parks around my home. As a result, I feel enormously connected to the seasons, trees and green spaces in my local area.
I appreciate that not everyone has time for a pet or for long walks but most of us commute and have breaks throughout the day. Without too much difficulty you might find it possible to take a few minutes on your way to work to head through the park instead of directly to the station, to eat your lunch on a bench in the park, or to wander through a local garden or along a river. Even 5 minutes contemplating or simply being in nature will have a positive impact and gets you connected.
Exercise 1: Practicing Presence
Wherever you are, take your attention to the breath. Breathe in and out at a natural pace 5 times. Follow the breath in and out. In your head count 1 on the inhalation and 1 on the exhalation then repeat for 2,3,4 and 5. Keep your focus gently on the breath and the number. If your mind wanders, gently bring it back without judgment or frustration.
Now, simply expand your awareness into your body. Feel the body as it is right now. There might be an itch, a pain, a congestion or just a hum of life buzzing through the cells. Let it be exactly as it is. Explore with your mind the feelings of this being that is you. See if you can feel areas separately and then all of you at once. This is you…whatever you experience here is right for you for now. Nothing is fixed, everything is flow.
Now set an intention to call all known and unknown aspects of the self into the awareness of the body and simply notice what occurs. Your only focus is awareness, welcoming and listening. This is a process of discovery.
As you become more fully present in the body open your eyes and see how long you can continue this focus. As you practice you will be able to hold presence for longer periods until you carry greater presence around with you all the time. In spiritual terms we might say that you are choosing to become more conscious, available and embodied.
As you experiment and become more conscious of your capacity for presence in different situations, note any changes and listen out for comments from people that know you well who might pick up on subtle changes in your behaviour or impact.