For this exercise find a place, any place, with some nature present (which, let’s face it, is anywhere and everywhere; the air you are breathing right now, even the body with which you perceive the world is part of ‘nature’).
In this practice, we begin by honing our powers of perception. Imagine you have just landed here on planet Earth and are experiencing this reality for the first time. What are you curious about? What do you notice? What aspects of the environment draw your attention?
Open and engage all the senses. What is it to see, hear, feel, smell? Direct your attention towards something that gives you pleasure in or around you. Allow your attention to be sustained on this object. Resist the habitual tendency to move on quickly to something else. Stay with it, explore and investigate all its qualities with the senses.
What happens when you stay with the experience? Often the more we look, the more we see, as new layers of detail begin to emerge as the subtleties and nuances of an image give themselves up to the patient eye. Rich detail that we never imagined existed in something so ‘everyday’, begins to emerge.
Once you have ‘perceived’ it, then open fully to ‘receiving’ it – open to the experience as if you were taking it in to your mind and body, savouring and enjoying the details, the nuances, and the flavours of experience.
It starts with intention – deliberately guiding your attention towards a particular object; then perception – attending to what you are perceiving. Then we can experiment with simply opening and surrendering to the experience; to really allow the experience to nourish you, you can imagine the experience flowing into you, as you simply open and receive the goodness that you perceive.
Tune into the experience in body and mind: How does it feel? What sensations, emotions, and thoughts are arising? Savour any pleasant feelings, basking in their warm glow.
Through this process we are training the attention to be flexible: We shift between an external focus and an inner focus, noticing how there is really no separation between inner and outer but simply different aspects of our present moment reality that we can attend to and enjoy.
This process need only take 30 seconds or a couple of minutes (always nice to indulge for longer if you can) but it can have a subtle yet powerful effect on your ability to reduce stress and increase your emotional well-being