By Sarah Fiorello

Research shows that time in nature benefits human well-being. A few moments of observing a pollinating insect at work may lower stress hormones and increase a sense of peace and contentment.

Cornell Botanic Gardens helps its community maximize the healthful benefits of nature through “Mindful Botany” Walks. These take place during every season of the year. Together the group practices mindfulness meditation by fully experiencing the present moment through exploring the boundless beauty nature offers.

Next time you’re out for a walk, try these practices as we do during Mindful Botany Walks.

Engage your senses: Find a plant, shrub, or tree that attracts you and mindfully observe it using a variety of senses. How does the bark or foliage feel? Does the bloom or twig have a smell? Does it make any sound?

Be mindful of your breath: Focusing on the sensation of your breath is a helpful tool for staying present. To prepare for mindfully observing the beauty around you, take several deep breaths to center your attention.

Take a closer look: From showy flowers to a simple spore, all plants have a reproductive structure. Closely examining these structures is sure to keep you in the present moment. Does the plant reproduce sexually or asexually? If it has a flower, does it have both male and female parts? Is what appears to be one flower, actually a cluster of flowers? This practice offers a window into the transfixing variation among reproductive structures.

Note what is happening in the seasonal cycle: Spring is a time when foliage and flowers emerge after dormancy in winter. Summer is buzzing with pollinators spreading pollen for the purpose of fertilize an egg to produce seeds and fruit. What evidence of the seasonal cycle do you observe in the present moment?

Notice when your mind has wandered: If you find yourself distracted by chatter in your mind, simply notice that your mind wandered and return your attention to the present moment.

These techniques can unlock time to connect with nature each day. Try practicing them on your walk to the office, during a short break in your workday, while you’re walking your dog, or even on your trek to the mailbox.


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