Meditating in nature

Discussion of meditation in the Mahayana and Vajrayana traditions.

Meditating in nature

Postby dimeo » Sat Oct 19, 2013 3:36 pm

Buddha sat under the bodhi tree in the deer garden. I've noticed there is a tradition in Buddhism of finding stillness in nature and meditating in the forest. Perhaps in the silence and stillness it is easier to practice and realize enlightenment than in the noisy busy cities? Certainly something in me is obsessed / craving being outside and in nature. After being cooped up a concrete cage all week, I need to get out for a walk and get some fresh air.

In many places around the world that are near the equator, it's pretty much always warm and there are few walls and glass windows. I live far from the equator, and today it's about 45f / 7c outside and I'm thinking about what layers I'd need to wear in order to stay warm if I'm sitting still and meditating outside in the forest. I'd also need a good insulated cushion under me doesn't absorb the ground wetness. I'm thinking a thermos of hot green tea might be good too.

Anyone want to talk outdoor gear or meditating in nature? Thoughts? Suggestions?
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Re: Meditating in nature

Postby PadmaVonSamba » Sat Oct 19, 2013 4:01 pm

Yes, meditating out in the cold is good. camping is good too (no mosquitoes!)
I did a three day outside sit once in January, in cold winter.
You need to insulate your butt from the cold & wet ground. A blanket wrapped in a garbage bag will do that.
Wear warm loose-fitting clothes, and it helps if you have something like a blanket that acts like a 'shell'.
It's good to have someone who can check on you make sure you don't over-do it.
You need liquids but don't drink too much, or you will have to get up to pee. If you do this, you will lose heat.
Once your body gets settles in, you will be surprised to find that you are toasty warm.If you feel cold, relax your shoulders. The big mistake people make when they get cold is to tense up.
There is a yogic practice in Tibet called Tummo, where people can make their bodies so hot it will dry wet cloth in the winter. Don't try this. However, it is possible to mentally guide your body to warmth:
remember that in your torso, you are 98.6 f degrees. That is very warm.
Imagine your torso is a 98degree furnace, burning orange-white,
and your arms and legs and fingers and toes are air ducts.
You can mentally visualize the heat from your center filling up all those limbs.

watch out for bears.
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Re: Meditating in nature

Postby dimeo » Sun Oct 20, 2013 5:02 pm

So it was cold and raining yesterday. Nevertheless I went into the forest from 3 until sundown.
It started out cold, then while I was getting ready to go it started raining and didn't stop for the rest of the day. I thought about avoiding the rain, and just staying in and mediating at home, but then the neighbour started with the bass music thumping through the walls. That settled it, I had to get out there. Then I realized if it's raining, even less people will be out in the forest today!

To say "cold" or "raining" is all relative. On a really cold day in winter here it could be 20 below zero, and for some places in the world forty below is just another day. And the rain... it was wet out, but it wasn't one of those torrential downpours we get with thunder and lighting... it comparison it was just a light rain. Meditating helps me realize just how much conditions for happiness are relative. Perhaps someone can find the right words to express this philosophy better than I... Maybe it's similar to how the teachings say that samsara and nirvana are the same?

A little cold and rain is too much for some people, so they feel miserable outdoors & complaining the whole time. And others never dare venture out into it. But I find if I'm prepared, I feel great! Regardless, I didn't see anyone else there and I found perfect solitude. There was only the sounds of the rain on the trees and a few wild birds. Softly in the far distance you could hear the flow of the highway traffic.

I was happy I brought a light waterproof jacket and rain pants to wear over top. Under this I wore a fleece jacket and a synthetic base layer top and legs. I was warm and dry the whole time, except for my feet where water had seeped into my old leather boots somehow. But the marino wool socks stayed warm even when wet. I've learned to not wearing anything made of cotton in the cold (it stays wet and cold).

After wandering for a couple hours I was pleased to discover a wonderful spot away from the trail that was a beautiful grassy edge of the lake among the trees. I strung up a tarp to keep the rain off me. I snacked on a chocolate protein bar to boost my low energy. I strung up a hammock to sit on under the tarp. I carried a thermos of hot water to make some green tea with honey. After snacking I sat and rested, taking in the beauty of my surroundings. I returned to the car before sundown.

I've been exploring this wild conservation land around the lake for several years, trying understand it better. The area is about few kilometes of wild forest & wetlands along the edge of a lake with a handful of cabins or homes at either end. I look at the Google satellite maps and carry my GPS. It's intentionally not well marked or easy to access so as to preserve it.

I can see the 'clinging and attachment' I have to this idea of being outside. I can see how much of my thoughts, time and energy are focused on this. Perhaps I'm craving some adventure outside my normal routine and feeling I need to seize the day and do something interesting or *fun* weekend. LOL I can't wait to be alone, cold and wet in the forest! :woohoo: Not everyone's idea of a good time. :crazy:

But I see it as skills for survival, and a great way to get fresh air and exercise. During the summertime, it's so simple and easy to just walk outside with the shorts and shirt you are wearing and 'live outdoors'. When I meditate indoors during the summer, it's obvious to me how easily I can meditate in nature. During the cold seasons, it takes a little more preparation to live outdoors. Yes, it would have been much simpler to have sat on my meditation cushions at home. And today I've piles of wet outdoor gear sitting on the floor I need to dry and put away.


@PadmaVonSamba I agree that the cold seasons are even better with the lack of bugs! I used to think that the *only* time for outdoor adventure was summertime. How wrong I was!
Thanks for your great suggestions. I love your garbage bag wrapped blanket - simple and effective.
I will work towards these advanced practices of preserving and visualizing heat. Your three day sit during a January is admirable! It reminds me of the film I watched of advanced Zen monks who perform Zazen through the night in the dark and cold with steam coming from their mouths.
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Re: Meditating in nature

Postby PadmaVonSamba » Sun Oct 20, 2013 6:14 pm

I know a Thai monk who is part of the 'forest tradition' who told me a lot of stories about meditating alone deep in the jungle. There were times when tigers and wild elephants came over to see what he was doing, and then walked away.
I think i will stick to dealing with mosquitoes.

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Re: Meditating in nature

Postby avisitor » Sun Oct 20, 2013 9:38 pm

There is a romantic notion with meditating out of doors.
But, I believe if one is looking for solitude or peace then it won't necessarily be found outside of oneself.
After all, this journey is an inner one???

Sorry, just thinking out loud. :shrug:
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Re: Meditating in nature

Postby baileyd123 » Fri Nov 08, 2013 8:39 pm

avisitor wrote:After all, this journey is an inner one???


This is very true, avisitor. However, I think being in nature can help people delve further into themselves quicker. In a house I often find that I am distracted by certain duties such as school or even just the maintenance of my home. I think this is because the environment of my home is an integral part of my daily life and keeps those duties at the forefront of my mind. Sure, in deep meditation I will eventually set it all aside and it is all the same in the end, but I find it much easier outdoors. It is far more pure and I don't find myself being reminded of these busy duties that distract me from my spiritual aspirations.
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Re: Meditating in nature

Postby avisitor » Fri Nov 08, 2013 11:22 pm

baileyd123 wrote:In a house I often find that I am distracted by certain duties such as school or even just the maintenance of my home. I think this is because the environment of my home is an integral part of my daily life and keeps those duties at the forefront of my mind. ... I find it much easier outdoors. It is far more pure and I don't find myself being reminded of these busy duties that distract me from my spiritual aspirations.
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If a man goes to the mountains to obtain peace of mind then can he come back to the city and keep his peace??
Where something is planted ... is where it will grow????
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Re: Meditating in nature

Postby greentara » Sat Nov 09, 2013 1:00 am

If there's no 'doer' does it make that much difference if you're washing dishes or sitting under a tree meditating?
Just about anything can disturb the mind....washing dishes 'Oh what a waste of time' or sitting under a tree 'Can't that kid yelling nearby just shut up!'
If you can afford it and don't want to do housework, get a maid! Believe me your mind will then fixate on another problem.

If you're waiting for everything to be perfect around you....well its going to take for ever!
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Re: Meditating in nature

Postby dimeo » Sat Nov 09, 2013 7:52 pm

One reason I meditate while surrounded by nature is that I know deep inside me and accept that it is what it is and I need to adapt to it. I know that if the air is cold, if it's raining, or if the ground is wet, or the path is muddy, that is the way things are and I accept it. In nature I know that my feelings of aversion or clinging come from inside me.

It's rather typical of me to feel annoyed by the things that other people near me will say and do. But I know it's silly for me to think like this of the natural world, having any expectations of it being one way or another. Nature is as nature does.

The term "nature" is used to describe "the way things are", as in "the basic or inherent features, character, or qualities of something". When we talk about "natural" things, we mean the way things have been and exist without the interference of humans. The sheer power of natural forces can quickly tame the arrogance of humans. Nature is a profound teacher.
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Re: Meditating in nature

Postby kirtu » Sat Nov 09, 2013 8:13 pm

It's not a good idea to meditate in cold conditions if you can get into a compromising situation (disoriented from the weather and/or temperature). If you are used to camping out then there shouldn't be a problem but it could still be easy to misjudge how you are doing if it suddenly gets cold. You will need a thermos of warm tea/coffee just in case, to ensure that you do not become a hypothermia statistic (unlikely, but ....).

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Re: Meditating in nature

Postby Martin007 » Sun Nov 10, 2013 3:07 pm

dimeo wrote:Anyone want to talk outdoor gear or meditating in nature? Thoughts? Suggestions?


It's always important to dress correctly, including sensible footwear. ;)
I live near the sea and sometimes just sit and watch waves break for a while. I claim it's a meditation on the elements, but really it's just nice and relaxing!
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Re: Meditating in nature

Postby Martin007 » Sun Nov 10, 2013 3:09 pm

greentara wrote:If you're waiting for everything to be perfect around you....well its going to take for ever!


Sure, but if can create conducive conditions, then why not do so? Also, meditating in a variety of places is probably good for practice.
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Re: Meditating in nature

Postby catmoon » Tue Nov 12, 2013 9:15 pm

A phrase from a long forgotten book pops to mind... "Noise is the poison of samadhi". This is one reason meditators have sought isolation and quiet for so many centuries.
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Re: Meditating in nature

Postby avisitor » Tue Nov 12, 2013 9:38 pm

porpoise wrote:Also, meditating in a variety of places is probably good for practice.


When the conditions are right for that kind of thing, it probably would be good for practice.



catmoon wrote:Noise is the poison of samadhi.


Again it is when it is applied.
I'm sure that in the beginning, it would be detrimental to concentration
But, later, it might even help deepen it??


Sorry, just thinking out loud ... don't mind me .... :rolling:
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Re: Meditating in nature

Postby catmoon » Wed Nov 13, 2013 7:59 am

avisitor wrote:
porpoise wrote:Also, meditating in a variety of places is probably good for practice.


When the conditions are right for that kind of thing, it probably would be good for practice.



catmoon wrote:Noise is the poison of samadhi.


Again it is when it is applied.
I'm sure that in the beginning, it would be detrimental to concentration
But, later, it might even help deepen it??


Sorry, just thinking out loud ... don't mind me .... :rolling:


I left that part out for the sake of brevity and clarity.
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Re: Meditating in nature

Postby Martin007 » Wed Nov 13, 2013 11:44 am

catmoon wrote:"Noise is the poison of samadhi".


It probably depends on the noise. Natural sounds like wind in trees or waves breaking might be very conducive, whereas a blaring radio might be very un-conducive ( well, unless it's some nice classical music... ;) )
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Re: Meditating in nature

Postby shaunc » Wed Nov 13, 2013 12:03 pm

There's, to me a very meditative experience to be had by enjoying nature, whether that be hiking in the wilderness, turning soil in the vegetable patch or feeding the chooks & collecting the eggs in the chook run. I believe many Japanese zen monks/priests were gardeners & the Thai Forrest monks have already been mentioned. I'm not aware of any Buddhist sects involved with the raising of livestock but I do believe that it can go on in other religious traditions. Christianity has quite a few references to shepherds & fishermen.
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Re: Meditating in nature

Postby Berry » Thu Nov 14, 2013 10:46 am

Whenever possible, I prefer to meditate outdoors.
It doesn't necessarily have to be out in the country in an ideal setting. Traffic and occasional people noises in the background are ok ,they're just sounds along with birdcalls and trees rustling in the wind.
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Re: Meditating in nature

Postby dharmagoat » Thu Nov 14, 2013 12:01 pm

porpoise wrote:
catmoon wrote:"Noise is the poison of samadhi".

It probably depends on the noise. Natural sounds like wind in trees or waves breaking might be very conducive, whereas a blaring radio might be very un-conducive ( well, unless it's some nice classical music... ;) )

It is not so much the quality of the sound that disturbs us, but our rejection of the source of the sound.

For example, I enjoy the sound of distant thunder, but if I hear a jet plane fly high overhead I resent the intrusion. Actually, the two sounds are almost identical.
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Re: Meditating in nature

Postby Martin007 » Thu Nov 14, 2013 12:12 pm

dharmagoat wrote:For example, I enjoy the sound of distant thunder, but if I hear a jet plane fly high overhead I resent the intrusion. Actually, the two sounds are almost identical.


Yes, I know what you mean. It's like with natural sounds there is nobody to blame. ;)
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