“When we draw in a breath, we share that air with all other human beings and all other life on our planet. Through respiration, one oneness with trees becomes a manifest fact, and our communion with the oceans has immediate impact. The reality of the planetary whole reveals itself, with implications for all human life, through the circulation of the gases and energy of the atmosphere. This vision underlies holistic healing as much as it does ecology. The anatomy and physiology of the respiratory system is a complex and beautiful embodiment of integration and wholeness.” - David Hoffman, Medical Herbalism.
During times of uncertainty, crisis and confusion, there are two things I like to turn to: my breath, and nature. I turn to my breath because it allows me to have control over my inner feelings, connecting back to one of the simplest but most profound abilities we share with all beings. I turn to nature because it’s always there, never wavering. The flowers are peeking their heads out of the ground after a long winter, the trees are developing little buds, the birds are chirping, and the round is the same ground that holds all of humanity as we know it. These two elements help me feel more connected inwards as well as to the world around me.
As part of my herbal apprenticeship, we start every session with a guided meditation. My teacher Cat, who also is a forest bathing guide, grounds the session with a meditation that helps us both to connect inwards and to the earth. It’s simple yet powerful, and it’s a practice that helps me connect to the present, to my body, and to the nature that surrounds me, which all other beings share as well. It's a practice I would like to share with you.
If you can find a space to lie on the ground in the grass or otherwise, that’s ideal. However, that's certainly not always possible! You can sit outside, sit on a balcony, or even sit near an open window if those options are available, or simply practice this anywhere you are to connect more deeply inwards. Take as long as you’d like-- this meditation can take just a few minutes, or feel free to get lost in it for longer.
Here’s how you practice:
Five Senses Meditation
Close your eyes.
First, connect to the feelings you are experiencing. Hot or cold, a breeze, humidity, sensations in the body. How it feels to have your body lying in the grass or sitting in a chair.
When you’re ready, move on to your sense of sound. What do you hear? Listen to the sounds, man-made, animal-made, and earth-made. What sounds near and what sounds far? Familiar and unfamiliar?
Next, we move on to our sense of smell and taste. Take a deep breath in through your nose, feel the air entering your nostrils. What do you smell? After a few breaths, open your mouth and drink in a sip of air. What do you taste?
Sit with these four senses for a few minutes, engaging them all at once. Your sense of feeling, sound, taste, and smell. Your whole being resting on the earth, connecting deeper to all that which surrounds it.
When you are ready, very slowly blink open your eyes. Stare up at the sky or your surroundings. Take in your final sense— sight. What surrounds you? If there’s a cloud in the sky, watch it slowly go by, transforming, shifting, moving.