Darnell Lamont Walker leading Rituals Writing Workshop
INSIGHTS: An Interview with Mark Coleman, Mindfulness Teacher & Wilderness Guide
Category:
Spirit

The past year has redefined the outdoors. For one, when we weren’t sheltering in place, we carried on as best we could  outdoors, as it was considered one of the safer gathering spaces in the midst of the pandemic. As we emerge and adjust back to a new normal — shedding masks, connecting, and traveling again — how can we reflect more deeply on our relationship with ourselves, the outdoors, and the earth? 

At Esalen, the majesty of Big Sur and its sacred grounds have been available for decades to explore and discover one’s potential: a true gift. How do we look ahead and move forward with a more responsible and purposeful approach to nature? The answer may start with mindfulness.

Mark Coleman, mindfulness teacher and wilderness guide, took some time to chat via email from the U.K. in advance of his upcoming workshop at Esalen, Awake In the Wild: Meditation in Nature, May 28-30. 

Here, he shares his take on earth, screens, being in nature, pandemic healing, and more.


Christine Chen: Some say the earth showed us it needed space to heal, and we saw signs of it while we were all more indoors. What did you observe? 

Mark Coleman: The pandemic did give many ecosystems a moment to pause. Human influence is vast and as we've slowed down, it has allowed more quiet in the oceans for marine life, less pollution in the air, more quiet for songbirds to hear each other etc. The key is how we learn to continue to live in better harmony with the earth going forward. 

CC: What does this observation tell us about mindful relationships with nature as we emerge from the pandemic? 

MC: There are many lessons from the pandemic. One is how vital getting outdoors is for our sanity, health, and well-being. It also reveals how profound an impact humans have on the earth, and so wakes us up to the need to be more mindful of all that we do both individually and collectively, so we are supporting a regenerative way of living that is sustainable rather than one that is exploitative and extractive.  

CC: After a year or more of screens, is nature part of our healing path?

MC: Absolutely! Getting away from screens and out into the sensory 3D world of nature is essential for our well-being and health. Research shows that spending time outdoors increases well-being, reduces stress, and lowers blood pressure and cortisol levels. And we know intuitively that going into nature uplifts our spirits, opens our sense of perspective, and nourishes our hearts.

CC: How do we reframe our relationship with nature? 

MC: We reframe by stepping into the outdoors and beginning to listen, sense, and cultivate a quality of receptivity, where we see we are always in relationship. It’s a reciprocal dance of mutuality. It’s about seeing we are “of” the earth, not on the earth.

CC: What are the benefits of being outdoors and in nature? Are they mental, spiritual, physical, or all of it? 

MC: So many benefits. Being in nature opens us to joy at the beauty that is everywhere; peace as we come into the presence of wild things not taxed or stressed as humans are; love as we feel moved by the grace of a hummingbird or the steadiness of an old tree. Our mind calms and clears, our body feels more ease, and spiritually we connect with something greater than ourselves that creates wonder and a sense of the sacred. 

CC: What is special about practicing mindfulness and especially mindfulness in nature at Esalen? 

MC: Practicing mindfulness at Esalen is a joy. I often joke with participants: "Why would you not want to be mindful here?!” To be mindful at Esalen is to be kindled into joy, wonder, and delight at the beauty of nature, whether you are gazing at the ocean, walking through fields of flowers or listening to the serenade of waves. The beauty makes you want to pay attention!

CC: What types of practice techniques do you recommend for what we might be experiencing at this time? 

MC: I recommend inclining your attention to joy, to whatever uplifts your mind and gladdens your heart. There has been so much stress and difficulty for so many and it is important to turn our attention to also noticing spring blossoms, morning song, and the resilient nature of the earth so our heart has more resilience when times are challenging. 

CC: Your workshop is happening at the end of May. What will people come away with? 

MC: People will leave with a sense of being profoundly touched by beauty, wonder, and joy as they learn to train their minds, open their senses, and learn to live into an embodied sensory awareness that brings presence and peace wherever they are.  

Learn more about Mark Coleman.

“Remembering to be as self compassionate as I can and praying to the divine that we're all a part of.” 
–Aaron

“Prayer, reading, meditation, walking.”
–Karen
“Erratically — which is an ongoing stream of practice to find peace.”
–Charles
“Try on a daily basis to be kind to myself and to realize that making mistakes is a part of the human condition. Learning from our mistakes is a journey. But it starts with compassion and caring. First for oneself.”
–Steve

“Physically: aerobic exercise, volleyball, ice hockey, cycling, sailing. Emotionally: unfortunately I have to work to ‘not care’ about people or situations which may end painfully. Along the lines of ‘attachment is the source of suffering’, so best to avoid it or limit its scope. Sad though because it could also be the source of great joy. Is it worth the risk?“
–Rainer

“It's time for my heart to be nurtured on one level yet contained on another. To go easy on me and to allow my feelings to be validated, not judged harshly. On the other hand, to let the heart rule with equanimity and not lead the mind and body around like a master.”
–Suzanne

“I spend time thinking of everything I am grateful for, and I try to develop my ability to express compassion for myself and others without reservation. I take time to do the things I need to do to keep myself healthy and happy. This includes taking experiential workshops, fostering relationships, and participating within groups which have a similar interest to become a more compassionate and fulfilled being.“
–Peter

“Self-forgiveness for my own judgments. And oh yeah, coming to Esalen.”
–David B.

“Hmm, this is a tough one! I guess I take care of my heart through fostering relationships with people I feel connected to. Spending quality time with them (whether we're on the phone, through messages/letters, on Zoom, or in-person). Being there for them, listening to them, sharing what's going on with me, my struggles and my successes... like we do in the Esalen weekly Friends of Esalen Zoom sessions!”
–Lori

“I remind myself in many ways of the fact that " Love is all there is!" LOVE is the prize and this one precious life is the stage we get to learn our lessons. I get out into nature, hike, camp, river kayak, fly fish, garden, I create, I dance (not enough!), and I remain grateful for each day, each breath, each moment. Being in the moment, awake, and remembering the gift of life and my feeling of gratitude for all of creation.”
–Steven
“My physical heart by limiting stress and eating a heart-healthy diet. My emotional heart by staying in love with the world and by knowing that all disappointment and loss will pass.“
–David Z.


Today, September 29, is World Heart Day. Strike up a conversation with your own heart and as you feel comfortable, encourage others to do the same. As part of our own transformations and self-care, we sometimes ask for others to illuminate and enliven our hearts or speak our love language.

What if we could do this for ourselves too, even if just for today… or to start a heart practice, forever?

About

Christine Chen

Christine Chen is a two-time Emmy winning journalist, best-selling author, California native, and senior teacher of yoga and Ayurveda.

INSIGHTS: An Interview with Mark Coleman, Mindfulness Teacher & Wilderness Guide

About

Christine Chen

Christine Chen is a two-time Emmy winning journalist, best-selling author, California native, and senior teacher of yoga and Ayurveda.

Darnell Lamont Walker leading Rituals Writing Workshop
Category:
Spirit

The past year has redefined the outdoors. For one, when we weren’t sheltering in place, we carried on as best we could  outdoors, as it was considered one of the safer gathering spaces in the midst of the pandemic. As we emerge and adjust back to a new normal — shedding masks, connecting, and traveling again — how can we reflect more deeply on our relationship with ourselves, the outdoors, and the earth? 

At Esalen, the majesty of Big Sur and its sacred grounds have been available for decades to explore and discover one’s potential: a true gift. How do we look ahead and move forward with a more responsible and purposeful approach to nature? The answer may start with mindfulness.

Mark Coleman, mindfulness teacher and wilderness guide, took some time to chat via email from the U.K. in advance of his upcoming workshop at Esalen, Awake In the Wild: Meditation in Nature, May 28-30. 

Here, he shares his take on earth, screens, being in nature, pandemic healing, and more.


Christine Chen: Some say the earth showed us it needed space to heal, and we saw signs of it while we were all more indoors. What did you observe? 

Mark Coleman: The pandemic did give many ecosystems a moment to pause. Human influence is vast and as we've slowed down, it has allowed more quiet in the oceans for marine life, less pollution in the air, more quiet for songbirds to hear each other etc. The key is how we learn to continue to live in better harmony with the earth going forward. 

CC: What does this observation tell us about mindful relationships with nature as we emerge from the pandemic? 

MC: There are many lessons from the pandemic. One is how vital getting outdoors is for our sanity, health, and well-being. It also reveals how profound an impact humans have on the earth, and so wakes us up to the need to be more mindful of all that we do both individually and collectively, so we are supporting a regenerative way of living that is sustainable rather than one that is exploitative and extractive.  

CC: After a year or more of screens, is nature part of our healing path?

MC: Absolutely! Getting away from screens and out into the sensory 3D world of nature is essential for our well-being and health. Research shows that spending time outdoors increases well-being, reduces stress, and lowers blood pressure and cortisol levels. And we know intuitively that going into nature uplifts our spirits, opens our sense of perspective, and nourishes our hearts.

CC: How do we reframe our relationship with nature? 

MC: We reframe by stepping into the outdoors and beginning to listen, sense, and cultivate a quality of receptivity, where we see we are always in relationship. It’s a reciprocal dance of mutuality. It’s about seeing we are “of” the earth, not on the earth.

CC: What are the benefits of being outdoors and in nature? Are they mental, spiritual, physical, or all of it? 

MC: So many benefits. Being in nature opens us to joy at the beauty that is everywhere; peace as we come into the presence of wild things not taxed or stressed as humans are; love as we feel moved by the grace of a hummingbird or the steadiness of an old tree. Our mind calms and clears, our body feels more ease, and spiritually we connect with something greater than ourselves that creates wonder and a sense of the sacred. 

CC: What is special about practicing mindfulness and especially mindfulness in nature at Esalen? 

MC: Practicing mindfulness at Esalen is a joy. I often joke with participants: "Why would you not want to be mindful here?!” To be mindful at Esalen is to be kindled into joy, wonder, and delight at the beauty of nature, whether you are gazing at the ocean, walking through fields of flowers or listening to the serenade of waves. The beauty makes you want to pay attention!

CC: What types of practice techniques do you recommend for what we might be experiencing at this time? 

MC: I recommend inclining your attention to joy, to whatever uplifts your mind and gladdens your heart. There has been so much stress and difficulty for so many and it is important to turn our attention to also noticing spring blossoms, morning song, and the resilient nature of the earth so our heart has more resilience when times are challenging. 

CC: Your workshop is happening at the end of May. What will people come away with? 

MC: People will leave with a sense of being profoundly touched by beauty, wonder, and joy as they learn to train their minds, open their senses, and learn to live into an embodied sensory awareness that brings presence and peace wherever they are.  

Learn more about Mark Coleman.

“Remembering to be as self compassionate as I can and praying to the divine that we're all a part of.” 
–Aaron

“Prayer, reading, meditation, walking.”
–Karen
“Erratically — which is an ongoing stream of practice to find peace.”
–Charles
“Try on a daily basis to be kind to myself and to realize that making mistakes is a part of the human condition. Learning from our mistakes is a journey. But it starts with compassion and caring. First for oneself.”
–Steve

“Physically: aerobic exercise, volleyball, ice hockey, cycling, sailing. Emotionally: unfortunately I have to work to ‘not care’ about people or situations which may end painfully. Along the lines of ‘attachment is the source of suffering’, so best to avoid it or limit its scope. Sad though because it could also be the source of great joy. Is it worth the risk?“
–Rainer

“It's time for my heart to be nurtured on one level yet contained on another. To go easy on me and to allow my feelings to be validated, not judged harshly. On the other hand, to let the heart rule with equanimity and not lead the mind and body around like a master.”
–Suzanne

“I spend time thinking of everything I am grateful for, and I try to develop my ability to express compassion for myself and others without reservation. I take time to do the things I need to do to keep myself healthy and happy. This includes taking experiential workshops, fostering relationships, and participating within groups which have a similar interest to become a more compassionate and fulfilled being.“
–Peter

“Self-forgiveness for my own judgments. And oh yeah, coming to Esalen.”
–David B.

“Hmm, this is a tough one! I guess I take care of my heart through fostering relationships with people I feel connected to. Spending quality time with them (whether we're on the phone, through messages/letters, on Zoom, or in-person). Being there for them, listening to them, sharing what's going on with me, my struggles and my successes... like we do in the Esalen weekly Friends of Esalen Zoom sessions!”
–Lori

“I remind myself in many ways of the fact that " Love is all there is!" LOVE is the prize and this one precious life is the stage we get to learn our lessons. I get out into nature, hike, camp, river kayak, fly fish, garden, I create, I dance (not enough!), and I remain grateful for each day, each breath, each moment. Being in the moment, awake, and remembering the gift of life and my feeling of gratitude for all of creation.”
–Steven
“My physical heart by limiting stress and eating a heart-healthy diet. My emotional heart by staying in love with the world and by knowing that all disappointment and loss will pass.“
–David Z.


Today, September 29, is World Heart Day. Strike up a conversation with your own heart and as you feel comfortable, encourage others to do the same. As part of our own transformations and self-care, we sometimes ask for others to illuminate and enliven our hearts or speak our love language.

What if we could do this for ourselves too, even if just for today… or to start a heart practice, forever?

About

Christine Chen

Christine Chen is a two-time Emmy winning journalist, best-selling author, California native, and senior teacher of yoga and Ayurveda.

Darnell Lamont Walker leading Rituals Writing Workshop
INSIGHTS: An Interview with Mark Coleman, Mindfulness Teacher & Wilderness Guide
Category:
Spirit

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About

Christine Chen

Christine Chen is a two-time Emmy winning journalist, best-selling author, California native, and senior teacher of yoga and Ayurveda.

INSIGHTS: An Interview with Mark Coleman, Mindfulness Teacher & Wilderness Guide

About

Christine Chen

Christine Chen is a two-time Emmy winning journalist, best-selling author, California native, and senior teacher of yoga and Ayurveda.

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