This is what YES feels like in my body: Time freezes for a slight moment and there’s a sort of imprint—almost like my brain stopped to take a picture. In order to keep clarity, every part of me has to be still for just a nanosecond. It happened when I saw Kripalu’s ad to become a Mindful Outdoor Guide (a KMOG).
The training is directed toward a specific outcome: KMOGs can provide something termed “Mindful Outdoor Experiences.” (Think awareness of place meets forest bathing meets meditative movement.) I am gearing up to guide these nature journeys, but I want to write here about the benefits of the training in my own life; they provide a firm base for what I’ll offer.
First, it’s wonderful to have something engaging to do in (gray, damp, cloudy) November and early December. There’s much more.
Setting Irony Aside
I took this training online. (Right?) There were advantages. One: fellow KMOGs all over. My husband saw in passing my walking quietly and barefoot behind the house. With one earbud in, one out, I crept in slow motion with arms reaching wide for balance like the Karate Kid ready to deliver his crane kick. But there was no way he could see that fellow trainees were learning this same “fox walk” on a beach in Naples, Florida; at city parks in St. Louis, Missouri and the Bronx; in a forest in Colorado and the sandy hills of the Utah desert. Minnesota. Canada. Wise and connective use of technology, indeed.
Another: The in-person training meets for continuous days. Ours spanned ten weeks. Habits emerged and they’ve stuck. Walking mindfully and sitting in nature. Shaping a day that includes study and meditation. Enlivening all the senses. Cuing the body to relax by way of long exhalations. Listening Inside.
Rarely in winter do I go into my back yard, but in becoming a KMOG I sat quietly, walked with awareness, touched stems of dormant perennials then lifted my hands to my nose—all pieces of the experience I’ve learned to lead. In that, my daily soundscape became richer, colors more vivid. Smells more often caught my attention.
The mind is a tricky place. I’ve got a brain that sometimes tells me I don’t enjoy hiking anymore and I shouldn’t go, and sometimes tells me after a mistake that I should just give up. Silly stuff.
My body tells me things too. Nonconstructive screen time, for example, feels icky. Using nature to sooth my overburdened nervous system, I’ve finally been able to make real changes, cutting way down on senseless scrolling.
Follow the Schedule
Our assigned “Nature Immersion Day” turned out to be gray, cold, and rainy. Back roads were icy. Not a day I would normally spend outside.
For six hours I was in solitude in a state park nearby, seeing only two other cars. I rambled. Sauntered. Sat. Looked at animal tracks, practiced identifying trees. Made and enjoyed black coffee at a picnic table. Took only one picture.
A hemlock tree by Osmore Pond gave shelter for most of the afternoon. Clouds drifted over the hills in the background, fog over the icing water. Sprinkles of rain would come and go.
Late in the day I joined my fellow KMOGs online. No one reported good weather; much of it was worse than here. But we all talked about what a great day we had.
What awaits when we let go of what might be best and just show up?
Experiences to Come
All I’ve learned in becoming a KMOG contributes to the offering: Quiet time in nature, centering, awareness, connection.
I anticipate holding these publicly in the late spring or early summer (May? June?) I’ve given some privately. One person, admittedly riddled with anxiety often, told me it was the most relaxed she has felt in ages. An artist enjoyed light and form made vivid to her. One participant described the experience as “reassuring.”
I’m building a mailing list for anyone who wants to hear about upcoming Mindful Outdoor Experiences. Add your contact info here. I’ll be in touch!