But time outside is important. While the physical and psychological benefits are well-documented, it's also good for the environment. As Jacques Yves Cousteau said, "People protect what they love."
When we spend time outside with the intention of connecting with nature, we can cultivate an open heart and mind, awaken an inner receptiveness, and generate a sense of wonder and awe that benefits us and gives us positive motivation to protect our planet.
As you experiment with these activities, try to keep any conversation to a minimum. Turn off your electronic devices, and turn your attention to all that's going on around you. Most of all, enjoy yourself.
Take a Daily Walk
The easiest way to get outside is to walk. You can aim for a set amount of time, like 30 minutes, but if you can only do 3, that's better than none. Choose to go somehwere specific, or wander wherever your feet take you, but don't think of it as exercise. Just put one foot in front of the other and walk.
If you can walk somewhere beyond pavement and buildings, in a place with dirt paths, that's ideal. If the weather and location allow, try walking barefoot and notice the temperature and texture of the surface you're walking on.
If you don’t have ready access to a safe outdoor space, like a yard or a park, look for signs of nature all around you. Observe any trees in the landscape. If you're in a concrete jungle, look for the numerous places nature forces its way up through cracks in the pavement, walls, and anywhere a small patch of soil exists. Once you start looking for nature, you'll see it everywhere.
You'll also see it in the weather, which can often squelch the best intentions of spending time outside. However, if you dress wisely, you can enjoy walking in almost any weather.
While you walk, pay attention to your breath and your stride. Walk at a comfortable pace, and give yourself to the moment. It may seem like an indulgence to take time to walk every day, but if you make it a habit you'll find you're more refreshed and energized when you re-engage with the indoor world.
Stare at the Night Sky
Night is an underappreciated time to connect with the natural world, but it's a great time to reflect on our place in the universe.
To start this practice, go outside at night and look up. If you can find a dark location, you'll be able to see more of the night sky. This may be challenging if you live in a large city, but search out a rooftop or a park where, on some nights, you might glimpse a few stars.
Your goal isn't to learn about the stars themselves, but to develop an appreciation for all that exists beyond our planet. In the presence of the vastness of the galaxy, the smallness and preciousness of everything around us can easily come into focus.
Try to spend at least 10 minutes outside so your eyes adjust to the dark. Notice that the longer you stay out, the more you can see around you. Commit to getting out a couple of times each week and you'll start to notice the changes in the moon and stars, which is another great way to get in sync with nature.
Sit & Observe
Find a spot in nature that speaks to you, and have a seat. This isn't meditation, so you don't have to sit in any particular position, just choose something comfortable so you can be still for a while. You can be on a rock, the ground, a bench, a chair, or even standing if that's more comfortable. Now settle in, become still, and observe the world around you.
This may seem like a simple exercise, but it can be challenging at first. We're used to being productive and on the go, and when we sit still the momentum of "doing" still pulses through us, at least for a little while. Instead of jumping up to do some task, see if you can sit still and pay attention to the world around you.
Don’t try to find anything. Don’t expect to see anything. Let the world become used to your presence. After some time, you will start to see and feel things differently. Your relationship to the place you’re in will change. Observe whatever happens closely, but let yourself be taken along with the flow of events. It doesn’t matter so much what happens, but that you are present in the midst of it.
If you want to deepen this practice, return to the same place at regular intervals throughout the year. As you watch the changes in weather, light, animals, and plants, you'll begin to develop an intimacy and connection to the natural world that will enhance the quality of your life.
© 2015 Omega Institute for Holistic Studies