Finding your place: Take this opportunity to unplug from technology. Get a special notebook or journal to write in, and a pen to write with. Leave your cell phone at home. Reserve a chunk of time so you can be contemplative and slow. Walk out to a spot in nature in an easy saunter, as far as you can go in the time you’ve allotted. Find

a tree to lean against, a rock to sit on, a stream to sit by, a meadow to sit in. Take a deep breath, settle in.

Contemplating Mystery: Opening to mystery is like throwing a fishing line into the vast ocean and waiting patiently. You develop the qualities of receptivity, waiting and listening to what may speak to you or touch your heart in spontaneous, sacred moments.

Settle in to your spot, and listen to the silence of the landscape and the stillness of the trees and rocks all about you. Begin to turn your attention toward what evokes a sense of mystery. Try not to look for anything particular to happen, as this is not a results-focused exercise. Penetrating int the mystery cannot be forced or willed to happen. Turn toward the unknown rather than the known, and contemplate silence itself. Let the thinking, rational mind quiet, as you learn to listen not from your mind but rather from your heart and intuition. Try to drop the labels, descriptions, and evaluations of the life around you, and simply be, resting in awareness.

Choose anything you encounter in nature as the focus of your contemplation, through preferably it will be some- thing that will stay around long enough for you to dwell upon it. For example, you may want to choose an old tree, as stream, or a leaf from a plant. Once you’ve chosen the object of your attention, engage all of your senses so it comes alive for you. As you look long and deep enough at this leaf or rock or tree, you may begin to sense beneath the surface appearance, beyond your ideas and views about it. Rest as deeply in the present as possible, without any agenda regarding what should happen.

Even in something as minute as a blade of grass, you can sense or touch the mysteriousness of life. You may know how plants germinate, grow, and photosynthesize or that the color green is not inherent to the grass but is only a reflection of the light off the surface of the grass. But as much as you know intellectually, it is still mystifying that blades of grass sprout from tiny seeds, that they instinctually know how to reach toward sunlight, and that they grow in this unique, particular shade of green. Sensing into the interconnections between a leaf and innumerable conditions—from the sun burning in space, to the moist dew of the morning, to the gopher that tickles the tree roots—may take you closer to an understanding of the mystery of things.

Be mindful of how a leaf or a blade of grass can invite you into tranquility or rapture, into a sense of delight or curiosity. When you are present, receptive, and open, the natural world may speak to you in the language of mystery and wonder. You may feel that communication as a sense of silence, stillness, or breathtaking wonder. This dimension of mystery or awe can take you to a place beyond language, that is nearly impossible to articulate and is best left silent. Yet such moments can uplift our heart and make our spirit soar and sing. As we engage more and more in extended periods of silence, stillness, and quiet contemplation of nature, the mysteries of life and the universe will continue to reveal themselves to us.

– Adapted from Awake in the Wild by Coleman

Four Elements Meditation Activity

Contemplating the Four Elements: Sit on the ground cross-legged if you can, or any position that is comfortable. Sit with your back straight, as if a tree, rooting both into the ground with your hips yet reaching into the sky with your head.

First, focus on the air by paying attention to your inhale and
exhale. With each inhale, sense how the oxygen you breathe has been exhaled by the trees, bushes, grasses and oth- er plants of your home. With each exhale, sense how the carbon dioxide you expel is absorbed by the plant life all around the world. Feel how the air inside you is the same as the air surrounding you. Breathe the universe in and out over and over again. Contemplate how each breath connects you with all creatures.

Slowly shift your focus to contemplating the earth. As you sit, feel the hardness and solidity of the earth beneath you, the density of rock. The earth element pours through us, via the food we eat, transformed into muscles and tissues, replacing all the cells in our body every seen years. Feel the earth elements in the hardness and solidity of your body—your bones, nails and teeth. See if you can sense we are not just on the earth, but a part of the earth that walks, moves, breathes. The earth element in you is part of every living thing, from the granite bedrock to the dense bark of a tropical hardwood tree to the rich humus that supports so much plant life.

Slowly shift your focus to the element of water. Allow your eyes and ears to take in any body of water around you, be it a pond, stream, lake or a bottle of water. Explore the notion that the water you see is the same ingredient that resides within every cell of your body. Contemplate the watery nature of your body—blood, mucus, tears and sweat. Sense the fluids inside of you cleansing and moisturizing every cell, vein and artery. Look at the body of wa- ter before you and consider the ways you are part of the vast hydrological cycle—water enters your body, rinses it clean, and exits your body to rejoin the flow through the seas and mountains and sky. The water within has been through endless cycles, has passed through people living centuries ago, has been swallowed by whales in Antarctic waters, has laid in deep alpine lakes, been frozen icebergs in Greenland, and fed unnumerable trees.

Slowly turn your attention to the final element: fire. If it is a sunny day, sit in full exposure to the sun’s warm rays, our source of this element that connects us with the fire of the big bang. Feel the sun’s radiant heat on your skin, penetrating deep into you. Sense how the sun’s energy is sustaining your very life, providing the warmth deep in your belly. We need to regenerate fire constantly through exposure to warmth or via energy from food. The sun provides this element universally: we share this energy with all warm-blooded creatures, and with reptiles who use the life-giving rays to warm themselves in the middle of the day. Feel the sun’s energy giving warmth to the air, and life to the plants we metabolize.

To end this meditation, let your awareness expand to include all of your experience, and see if you can perceive each arising phenomenon through the lens of the four elements. By deepening our awareness of each of the four elements, we can begin to better see the universal nature of our individual mind-body experience.

– Adapted from Awake in the Wild by Mark Coleman