Learn the art of meditation through wildlife watching

July 3, 2014, 1 p.m.
white egret

Photo: Nancy Ridenour/MNN Flickr Group

Finding meditative moments while wildlife watching

Just looking at this photo -- at the simplicity, the grace of lines and movement, the calmness of the scene -- you may find your heart rate slowing, your muscles relaxing and your breathing becoming deeper. That is part of the magic of connecting with nature. Meditation is good for the mind and body, but if you've found it hard to sit down and meditate at home, you may want to try wildlife watching. There is a special kind of calm that one can access while sitting quietly, hardly moving, as wildlife goes about daily business around you.

As Mandy Haggith writes on her blog while describing an experience of waiting for beavers to appear in their lake: "There is a special kind of animal-watching meditation. It took me years to learn it. As a child I was incapable of sitting still. My dad used to take me badger-watching, which involved sitting quietly by a sett at dusk until the badgers emerged. I would rustle and fidget, and the badgers would no doubt hear and use a different exit. The more frustrated I became by the wait, the noisier my scuffling and the less chance of seeing a badger, until eventually we would give up. Somehow as an adult I have learned to wait quietly for animals. Attention is everything. Standing by that loch, I revelled in the cool breeze across the water, blowing gently in my face, perfect for not being smelled by the beavers. There was little sound except for the rippling water and the hush of breeze through twigs. It was good to know I was there, in the beaver's habitat, experiencing their loch."

Last month, Patrick Barkham phrased it beautifully when he discussed using nature to connect with oneself in his piece on wildife watching in the Guardian: "Our lack of knowledge about nature sometimes means that wild places are intimidating. Like taking up running, or swimming, however, it's surprising how quickly we improve with relatively little effort. Even without tuition…we can piece together fragments of lost memories or instinctive understanding of nature, and begin to find meaning in what is unfolding before us. There are so many joys to be gathered watching wildlife and one of the greatest is when we feel we have blended into the landscape and become part of the day, night, or ecosystem. Our pursuit of the little details of nature – a species of moth or a type of birdsong – are intrinsically pleasurable but they are also sense sharpers, that bring us alive to the possibilities in a landscape… They give us an excuse to loiter in a landscape, to stand still and simply be.

If you need to find a way to calm your nerves, reconnect with your self, find a little more joy in daily life, you may just find that the perfect solution is getting out into a quiet stretch of nature, sitting down, and quietly waiting for animals to appear around you. Watching them in their daily activities can bring a little more clarification and satisfaction to your own.

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Jaymi Heimbuch is a writer and photographer at Mother Nature Network. Follow her on Twitter, Google+, and Facebook.