I’ve been experiencing some truly remarkable weather recently. Have you? There has been lots of warm, sunny weather. Which means I can savour two of my favourite times of the day when the weather is warm, bird song in the mornings and the cool breeze in the late evening. These special things made me consider the many mindful things it is possible to do outside. With lengthening days, there seems so much more time to spend outdoors and it would be a shame to miss the opportunity to take some intentional time and relax. Don’t you think?
Mindfulness is the simple act of being intentionally aware of an action. You know what you are doing. Let me explain, with a couple of examples of the very opposite of mindful. First, there are times when you are driving a familiar route and suddenly wondered how you got where you are because you don’t recall the physical act of driving. Second those times when you have so many tasks buzzing around your head, that you would walk into another room in the house and cant remember why. Do you relate to any of these? As you can see, it is easy to be full of many things and mindful of little.
So as the long summer days grab us by the hand, let’s live with intention and be mindful of the choices we make. Let’s seek the benefits of nature connection, make the most of all that lovely outdoor space and practice a little mindfulness. But what can we do? Perhaps you are thinking this will involve some deep contorted effort to focus your mind for several hours. No, nothing of the sort. Here are a few of my favourite mindful things to do when summer comes around and I suppose if you are quite brave you can do some of them at any time of the year!
1 Eat outside
I love eating outside. I like nothing more than moving a table onto our balcony and eating breakfast or having dinner in the cool of the day. Another favourite way to eat outside is to take my packed lunch to a park on a working day, or my picnic basket to a lovely stream and spend time enjoying the fresh air. It is also a treat to find a cafe with an outside seating area. One of my favourites is in Grasmere, Lake District, UK. It is The Grasmere Tea Gardens, where you can sit on a terrace by a babbling stream and watch the birds dart across the water. The food is great too!
Picnics are one of my favourite things to do because they combine food and the outside. I also have to say my picnic basket is a thing of beauty. With pandemic life still with us, perhaps a picnic is one of the safest ways to enjoy eating out this year? So here, from my many years of experience, is my guide to a fabulous picnic.
2. Walk barefoot.
Barefoot walking is the perfect activity to focus the mind, because, without the barrier of shoes, the texture and heat of the land can be felt directly under your feet. During the summer it is quite normal to talk off your shoes at the beach, but what about in a woodland, or through the mud? Always check first and look over the area for any sharp objects. My favourite time to barefoot walk is across dew-covered grass early in the morning. I like feeling the contrast in heat from the garden in sunshine with that still in shadow. The trick is to walk very slowly and feel every sensation. I found this has really challenged my balance and it is really helping me to strengthen my ankles.
3. Lie in a hammock.
My parachute hammock is brilliantly portable. It folds to the size of a bum bag. I love it. There is nothing better than escaping the stifling heat of our apartment setting up the hammock by the river. This one comes with thick tree-friendly straps, so it doesn’t damage the trees. It took me a few attempts to get the tension in the straps right so that my bottom was not dragging on the ground. This parachute hammock snuggles around you and directs your attention up to the clouds and the tops of the tree – perfect for mindfulness. I like to take a book or a journal, to read and capture my thoughts. However, a word to the wise, put reading material inside of the hammock pocket rather than the ground. It makes them easier to reach and less likely you’ll fall out as you try.
Some days are hammock days
And need a vast expanse of blue
Strewn with shades of white clouds
Light enough to hold a wealth of imaginings
Nature connection will help you to manage the challenges that life brings and then adding this to some form of creative practice, for example, art, photography, writing will provide a way to cope with these challenges and enable some perspective, even if a few moments of peace.
Here is an extract inspired by time in a hammock. To read the whole piece. Click here. I hope you find it helpful.
4. Keep the window open
I don’t know about you, but I like sleeping with the window open especially in summer. There is no better way to start the day than the smell and sound of cool morning air drifting into the room. Alternatively, there is something quite hypnotic about listening to a summer rain shower or a dramatic thunderstorm. A sunny Saturday morning in my old house was a favourite, because the sun would peep in though the window. Those few moments of smell, sight and sound made it easy to focus before the need to get going for the rest of the day.
5. Stand around a fire as the night draws in.
Another opportunity to find a mindful focus is standing around a real fire on a late summer evening. The crackling wood, the dancing flames or the glowing embers are all fuel for mindfulness. It always surprises me how sitting around a fire, draws people together for conversation or to happily sit together in silence and watch the flames. I am a forest school trained teacher and I generally use a metal fire pit on a stand in the garden which is perfectly fine, unless of course you have a purpose build one. I always use a fire steal, tinder and kindling to light a fire, which can be another mindful exercise by focusing on coxing the fire into life.
6. Look at the night sky.
Sleeping outside under an open sky can be mesmerising. It works well in a back garden and is a treat to share with children, but out in the wild with the limited effects of light pollution watching the night sky is something else
Two things before you go
1. Head over to my YouTube channel and spend some mindful time with a stream
The earth has music for those who listenShakespeare