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Natural Awakenings Metro Phoenix & Northern Arizona

The Nature of Mindfulness: Steve Prices writes how connecting with nature produces profound benefits

May 03, 2015 08:33AM ● By Steve Price

Although some of us would enjoy nothing more, we need not live alone in a cabin near Walden Pond like Henry David Thoreau in order to benefit from the deep peace and contentment that comes from connecting with nature. All it takes is one step into our own backyard, gazing up at the moon or feeling the grass between our toes.

The old masters of haiku, a Japanese form of poetry consisting of three short lines with a revelation, would go outdoors and simply observe a flower, the birds or whatever seemed to draw their attention. It might take all day before the “Ah-ha!” moment would come, but it was always worth the wait. In this classic by Bashō, the lesson is simple, yet profound:

An old, silent pond.

A frog jumps in the water.

Splash! Silence again.

The realization here is that silence can be recognized only in contrast to its opposite. The splash is required for us to notice the quiet that follows and precedes it. The sudden noise brings us back to the present moment, and to the stillness that underlies everything, including the chatter of our thoughts. As the mind is returned to its primal, luminous state, we become receptive to the deeper teachings that nature has for us.

Nothing is permanent, not even the mountains. Understanding impermanence, we can experience anything, pleasurable or painful, without clinging or avoiding. Our mind can be like the sky, allowing thoughts to simply pass through like clouds. Not holding on liberates us so that we can remain available and grateful for whatever the moment brings. Stay present. "We should be blessed if we lived in the present always, and took advantage of every accident that befell us, like the grass which confesses the influence of the slightest dew that falls on it,” says Thoreau. It's easy to be present when things are going our way, but our greatest growth often comes when there's resistance. The instant we sense the heart starting to close down, the practice is to open it even more, right then and there, and remain present to the teaching.

Steve Price directs and teaches at A Mindfulness Life Center, in Scottsdale. For more information, visit AMindfulnessLifeCenter.com.

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