Here, I would like to introduce you to meditation in the forest or in the “wild”. I avoided the word outdoors, because outdoors can be in any park anywhere in the world. And no, I mean meditation in an “unmanicured” place, the “raw” outdoors. By “raw” I think about forests, whether small woodlands in a city or huge forests in the mountains.
Four years ago, on Sunday 21st January 2013 at 8am in London, UK – I remember the exact place and time because this experience changed my life forever – Michael introduced me to natural movement fitness.
Erwan LeCorre, founder of MovNat, brought the term to the wide public, but many individuals have practiced these mindful, intentional movements for many years. We just never gave it a name.
Michael introduced me to a form of movement that not only got me fitter and stronger than I have ever been before – a different type of fitness, based on strong foundations – but he introduced me to meditation and mindful movement.
That was the day I said “This is what I want to do”. I was already a personal trainer in a commercial gym, but, while I learnt a lot, I felt that wasn’t me. I loved the forest, be it winter or summer, sun or freezing cold, rain or snow. The forest we trained in was a small woodland London UK, but it was unmanicured. It was the raw outdoors, as I like to call these kinds of places.
Every movement we executed was mindful, from walking and running, to jumping, crawling, lifting and throwing logs and more. At the end we would do a cardio session using the movements we practiced during the session.
We did walking meditation, posture meditation, relaxation meditation, breathing meditation and, of course, meditation in movement – mindful movement.
Here are five benefits that I, and my clients, found through meditating in the forests as opposed to a room, home or in a park.
Connecting with nature
Being connected with nature at a deep level. Listening to birds, the wind through the trees, the sun rays breaking through the forest canopy and feeling the breeze on the skin cannot be matched by anything else I have experienced before or since. Furthermore there is research showing the physical and psychological benefits of spending time in the outdoors. Such benefits include relaxation, improving mood, stress management, improved focus, reduced inflammation in the body, and relaxation of internal organs. This connection with the earth is called Earthing or Grounding. Of course more research needs to be done but there is quite a lot out there.
Regardless of the research, anyone who spends times outdoors feels less stressed, and more grounded. And that’s how pretty much everyone feels.
In the forest mindful walking and movements are a must – you are not in a gym anymore. You have to immerse yourself into the environment and become, in a way, part of it; otherwise you will find yourself tripping, falling and hitting your head against branches. Mindfulness is essential in the forest and you can’t take your mind off what you are doing.
Being in the moment physically, mentally and emotionally
The forest forces you to be there and then, in the moment. You cannot take your mind off the task. I believe this addresses a big problem in today’s society - a lack of attention and focus. People have trouble focusing on one thing and one thing only as they have their mind cluttered with countless thoughts. They go to bed thinking about work, they wake up thinking about work. Are you one of those people?
Well I have great news for you. The forest is not a gym, so you HAVE to be physically, mentally and emotionally in the moment. It gives you the chance to clear your mind of everything, feeling an almost instant release of physical and mental stress and tension.
This was a major breakthrough for me, and it can be for you as well. I grew up around people who never had the patience for themselves or anyone and anything else.
However, when you find yourself balancing on a branch (on the ground), and you lose your balance and fall off after 10 steps, then after 5, then 7, then 3, you will start to learn patience. If you are an impatient person learning patience here will be difficult, but you will learn it anyway.
Walking on a balance beam or a branch or a root is itself a form of meditation, walking meditation, or balance meditation. Yes, to meditate or practice mindfulness you don’t need to sit with your legs crossed if that doesn’t feel right for you. You can incorporate mindfulness in every single thing you do.
You will also discover that by calming your mind and relaxing your body you will go all the way to the end of the balance beam, the branch, or the root you are walking on. Until then you will struggle. Now take that lesson into your business, relationship and/or your job. The forest teaches you patience and changes your life for the better.
Controlling your emotions
Do you ever get angry, or frustrated when you just can’t achieve something to work? Meditation in the wild and mindful movement will challenge you at an emotional level as well.
I remember after a while of training, when doing our posture meditation - a guided posture visualisation - I had to make a great effort to focus and not allow my work or personal problems invade my mind. The focus was to enter the body with the mind and correct the posture, align the body and relax tensed muscles. But sometimes I really struggled. Today I do it often and with ease, I can find calmness of mind in almost any situation, especially when things get difficult in business, personal or family life. I go back to connecting with my body. With practice you can learn to do that as well.
Today, as a UK qualified trainer and low back pain exercise instructor I teach this type of movement and form of fitness. However I also brought in the 21 years of experience in martial arts, in the form of fluid movement. Think about movements similar to Tai Chi, but it’s not Tai Chi, which is a martial art, it’s The Merisoiu Technique.
This is how 2,out of the 4 years as a Personal Trainer, have looked like for me. Getting people out of the gym and back to nature, to meditate, practice mindful, intentional movement, as well as developing a strong physical frame to go with a strong, powerful mind.
Dracula’s Retreat was created to bring you this experience. Its aim is to immerse you into in nature, find calm and peace, as well as building physical and mental strength, power and flexibility. While you will be staying in a nice inn, close to a populated Bran Village and Bran Castle (known as Dracula’s Castle) you will also go on trails up the mountain and enjoy the peaceful nature.
Of course, these are trails that others go on as well that are not manicured like a park would be. You will practice natural, mindful movement, meditate and experience barefoot mindful walking.
Dracula’s is a unique experience waiting for people like you. If you’d like to know more be sure check out Dracula’s Retreat on BookMeditationRetreats.com!
Interested in movement meditation? The Merisoiu Technique Institute will help you bring mindfulness into the way your body moves and lives.