Do you ever feel boxed in by your meditation practice? Maybe you’ve been practising a while, sitting there day after week after month after year on your mat, staring at the blank wall or the back of your eyelids.
We all need to cultivate patience and develop idols control, and there is no escaping the fact that it is only long-term practice that begins to bring in the big changes. Yet comfort can easily convince ourselves that practices are good for us long after their expiry date. This doesn’t mean that we discard them. Something as simple as a change in environment can shift our attitudes, let us drop deeper in and give the same old practice a new lease of life.
What kind of change? Let me recommend a simple one—get up and go outside. It’s time to get a little wild!
I first started meditating outdoors when the circumstances of my life started getting claustrophobic. My teacher suggested that I forget meditation and go get a breath of fresh air. The effects of that change of location were immediate and very liberating.
I took a blanket and groundsheet, went into my local woods and settled down in the autumn leaves for half an hour. No other method, just some quiet time to let my body tune in to the natural world around me. I’ve spent a lot of time in nature during my life but these first few short sessions showed me how little I actually noticed about what really goes on in the natural world about me.
I would never have guessed at how deafening the natural world can be when we truly listen, nor how paranoid and suspicious my “ex-cop scared-of-nothing” mind would be at the sound of a few squirrels leaping about the trees above me.
Whether sitting by a loch at midnight as the swans drift by and bats flit around my head, or listening to the crows above a blustery hill top on a grey summer’s afternoon, what struck me most in wild meditation is the deep connection between that outside world and my inner landscape. As well as my native Scotland I’ve now also meditated in the forests of northern Thailand, the Australian bush and in my current home, in the rainforests of the Cardamom Mountains of Cambodia. No matter where I go, right there in the other world is a perfect mirror for what is going on inside.
Emotions ebb and flow just like the waves at the beach. Bright thoughts get eclipsed by clouds that then move on again; and every once in a while the relentless wind drops still, just as my mind goes quiet without warning and leaves me with a moment’s peace. At a subtle level, the organic ever-changing world of nature begins to decompress our inner landscapes, making them curve and spiral instead of being fenced by the straight-line world we usually live within. Have you ever noticed that nature doesn’t have any straight lines? Even the far horizon is an optical illusion of a curved surface.
For the past five months I’ve been sitting every day by the edge of the lazy Tatai river in Cambodia. Sometimes when I’m sitting there the river is perfectly still, and in the reflections, which often seem more real than the actual clouds and trees and sky, there seems to be message about the illusion of what I think is real in life. When it’s not so still, the ripples of the wind or a passing boat are telling me something about cause and effect, the impact of even the smallest disturbance and how complicated life gets when all those waves bounce off the riverbank for the jetty and cause interference with other waves.
One day the swifts swoop down to drink on the wing and put on an aerial display, another sees a flock of white egrets gracefully making their way downriver without any fuss. And then there’s the song of the gibbons, every day, calling out as if they have some jungle secret for my ears.
It still takes some effort to get up before dawn in the morning, but almost every day I know it’s going to be worth it just for the unique experience of being there. But don’t take my word for how good it is to sit in nature, try it for yourself and see what happens if you bring a little wild into your meditation.
About the Author
Scott Rennie is a Scottish yoga and meditation teacher in the tradition of Krishnamacharya (Viniyoga), currently working at Rainbow Lodge Eco Resort (www.rainbowlodgecambodia.com) in south-west Cambodia. His practice there lets him indulge in exploring the effects of nature and wilderness on conscious practice, and he offers retreats there that can help you do the same. You can find details on his website at www.trikayayoga.com.