INSIGHTS: Learning Mindfulness from Meditation in Nature
Christine Chen
June 14, 2021
Photo by Sue Hall

What if you could sit with the ocean and trees, dive deeply into your relationship with nature and yourself, and come away with a profound sense of purpose? Mark Coleman, mindfulness teacher and wilderness guide, is back with a five-day version of his weekend workshop, which was sold out in May. 

Go deeper and meditate entirely outdoors. See where it takes you. You might discover a new level of mindfulness, perfectly catered to our transition to a post-pandemic world. The potential is there in the majesty and humility of Big Sur and its sacred grounds. 

In advance of his encore workshop, Awake In the Wild: Meditation in Nature, which is happening June 21-25, Coleman shares his thoughts on finding ease, healing our insides, and living outwardly with purpose. 

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

Mark Coleman: 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 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, and 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 at ease, and spiritually we connect with something greater than ourselves that creates wonder and a sense of the sacred. 

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 later this month. 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 in an embodied sensory awareness that brings presence and peace wherever they are. 

Learn more about Mark Coleman.

Mark leads Awake in the Wild: Meditation in Nature June 21–25 at Esalen.

Register Now


Christine Chen

Christine Chen is the host of Esalen Live! and Senior Content Producer. Christine is a two-time Emmy winning journalist, a best-selling author, California native, and yoga teacher's teacher (ERYT500, ERYT300, YACEP) on Esalen Faculty.