Meditation has been done outdoors for thousands of years. Wandering ascetics travelled from place to place sitting under open skies. The historical Buddha was enlightened while meditating at the foot of a tree in the fresh clear morning air. Zen poetry and art is almost always about nature. Almost everything that is related to meditation refers to nature in some way or another.
Because we choose to use the outdoors as our place of practice, we will no doubt trade some of the comforts of indoor spaces for the freedom of not having the burden of financial obligations and material accumulations. We will meditate in whatever weather we are given, as long as it’s safe to do so. This will become some of our greatest blessings as well as some of the greatest lessons.
There is something about meditating outdoors that seems so alive and rooted in life’s Great activity. The birds and beetles become our companions. The sounds of streams and rivers soothe and refresh us. Vast open spaces expand our awareness. The solid ground is alive and so are we. We are life being open to life. We breathe in the air from the trees and grasses, enlivening our whole body, and we breathe out nourishment for the flowers and bushes. Each in-breath gives life and each out-breath also gives life. When we meditate outdoors, that inseparable fusion becomes clear and gives rise to remembering our greater Being.
Meditating in nature isn’t always bliss though. There are challenges when in the midst of uncomfortable weather or pesky bugs and wildlife. The fact that nature is always changing and unyielding to our personal preferences, offers us great lessons in letting go and dealing with our desperate preferences for comfort and ease. When sitting outdoor week after week, season after season, there is a real sense of the cycles of life and a wonderful development of fortitude and patience. Life never stays the same, it keeps moving and changing.
Weather doesn’t just happen in the outer environment though, it also happens in our minds and emotions as well. At times there are warm sunny days, gloomy drizzling days, freezing winds and powerful downpours. We sit in the midst of it all and in the process find a part of our Being that notices and is open to whatever is there. When we can be open to this weather of the environment, mind and body, we begin to have a greater sense of being able to give ourselves to the nourishment of life. The need to desperately grasp and pull at our situations and relationships for comfort and peace begins to ease. When we can connect with the inherent peace and contentment within our own being, kindness and generosity naturally occur.
Meditating outdoors is just meditating though. Nature is simply an alive place to engage in an ancient, yet contemporary, practice. Parks, forests and beaches happen to be the place we choose to gather together with people on parallel journeys to practice a ‘way of life’ based on the wisdom of meditation.