Open-eyed Meditation in Nature: Allowing Joy to Emerge

•  When your child or teen is having a difficult time, it can be very helpful to get out in nature and clear the mind with a walk. Staying in the present moment, while being in nature, is a healing activity for the mind and body. It gives young people time to take a break from electronic devices, get oxygen to the brain, and move the physical body. Optimal places are: a park, a playground, forest, mountain, lake, the ocean, a college campus or a trail. If you can’t access nature then this can also be done on a city street. Biking is also an option. If there is no access to nature just get out and walk as you can. Trust your own intuition and what you feel attracted to on your walk. Stop to notice trees, sounds, water, flowers, birds or dogs. Allow the mind that is over-thinking or is in disharmony to open to the space around you.

•  Make a point not to discuss problems with your child during this time. Allow the child to initiate talking. This may or may not happen and either way it’s ok. The key point is to stay in the present moment without any goals.

•  Allow your child the safe space to feel comfortable being in his or her body while doing this active exercise.

•  Creating an activity that a child and an adult can do together without words (resonating in tune with one another silently) is very supportive for the child or teen. By letting go of the need to talk, we get nourishment from nature and silence. Use this opportunity to allow the mind, body, and the individual cells to regain balance and nourishment from nature.

•  Tune into the body as you walk, noticing how your feet hit the ground, how your body is feeling.

•  After significant exercise, stop and rest in the silence that is created.
•  Make an effort to respect and allow for the silence.
•  If your child wants to be quiet, avoid initiating nervous chatter.
•  Use the mindfulness practices. Your teen will notice the state of calm you are experiencing, as you practice acceptance, and non-judgment.
•  If your child speaks, just listen and be appropriate in response.
•  Hold the stillness of the moment. This is meditation in action. The mind becomes quiet on its own from physical exercise and from shifting the focus from thinking to the breath.

•  While walking, use the time to watch your breath as you inhale and exhale. A simple way to do this is to focus your attention on the air as it comes in and out of your nose. When you experience resistance to doing this, just notice your resistance and gently bring the focus back to the breath.

•  It isn’t necessary to try to talk. Be in nature and allow the outside physical exercise to naturally calm the child’s nervous system. Also, don’t try to instruct your teenager in this method. Just being in nature together is enough. If the adult concentrates on their breathing, this will also support the teen energetically.

Being in nature for fun, to quiet my mind and get in touch with my feelings is a common way for me to spend time living in a small town in the mountains. When she was younger, I would often take my moody child walking in the woods. As a parent, I frequently made the mistake of asking questions at the wrong time when it would have been better to remain silent. The questioning would shut the conversation down. When I simply repeat a mantra, remained contented, relaxed, and focused on my breathing, my child would start to talk to me. Practicing “breathing into stillness”, and time in nature allowed us to have better communication.