Can’t Concentrate on a Cushion? An Outdoor Meditation Might Just Blow Your Mind

Photo: Stocksy/Dimitrije Tanaskovic
Anything that stands between you and the sunshine can feel like a major burden this time of year. (Unless, of course, it's sunscreen.) But if meditating happens to be one of those activities keeping you inside on glorious summer days, you'll be happy to learn that it's totally possible to name the great outdoors your Zen den for the extent of the season. In fact, nature could help next-level your mindfulness practice (think: forest bathing).

"The best part is that you get to bring all the joys of being outside into the meditation practice," says Megan Mook, a New York City-based yoga and meditation teacher. She says that moving your sesh into open air creates the opportunity for an entirely different type of "me time"—one that's really all about being awestruck by your surroundings. So ditch your cushion for today. Below, Mook shares exactly how to practice al fresco. 

how to meditate outside for summer
Photo: Unsplash/Holly Mandarich

Step 1: Find your seat

With the great outdoors as your meditation-scape, Mook says it's 100-percent okay to assume a non-traditional posture before starting your practice. Whether you sprawl out on patio furniture, lie down in the grass, or (sure) climb into a tree, you're ready to go. And for city-dwellers (AKA, those of us who consider our succulents garden "nature"), Mook says your morning commute to the subway, the nearest river, or a public park are all great venues for a fresh-air meditation.

Step 2: Focus on the sensation that brings you the most pleasure

Be it the feeling of the sun on your skin, the sound of ocean waves, or the stroke of the breeze through your locks, Mook says to rest your attention on the most-compelling sensation in your immediate surroundings. "The idea is, when you’re outside, to tune into the thing that gives you the most pleasure about being outside and to make contact with that feeling," she explains. As you do so, allow the feeling to energize and inspire you.

Step 3: Let your focus move from sensation to sensation

"You feel the ground beneath you, and you feel some pleasure with that. You look at a flower, and you feel some pleasure with that. You basically let your mind go from outside pleasure to pleasure," says Mook. Since the object of your meditation is the world around you, she says it's totally cool to rest your attention on any natural experience that entices you. Just make sure your dinner plans, work woes, and weekly workout schedule aren't creeping into your mind-scape. And if they do, no biggie. Just return to the sound of the wind or how the grass feels on your arms and legs. 

Step 4: Add a splash of compassion

If you're content with steps 1–3, Mook says you can stick with that practice for as long as you want. But if you want to try a more advanced practice, you can invite compassion into the mix. "So you look at a flower, or whatever you think is beautiful, and get that like nice, warm, energized feeling in your heart. And then the next level of that is, 'Oh my gosh! May everyone feel so much pleasure when we’re all looking at a flower',” she advises. And for more challenging outdoor moments, like mosquito bites or stepping on a sand spur, the meditation teacher says to flip the script, and think something like, “May no one ever be bothered by a fly while they’re meditating.” 

Here's exactly what meditation is right for you, based on your wellness needs. Plus, 5 cheap (or free) ways to go on a retreat

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