We all know that Taos is a place of great beauty — a wide volcanic plateau split by a deep rift, cradled by rolling mountain ranges, complete with dramatic cloud formations and stunning sunsets. It’s breathtaking by any standard. And we are also blessed with above-average weather: nearly every day is abundant with sunshine, so getting outside is nearly always do-able. And many who live here take advantage of the recreation that our landscape and weather affords: skiing, rafting, rock climbing, and hiking.
But there’s more to be enjoyed in the outdoors than strenuous recreational activities. How often have you found yourself, after a long hike or other adventure, just sitting and looking around? You’re breathing a little more deeply and you’re not thinking about much, just enjoying the beauty of place. It’s those moments that we need, where our busy lives and complications don’t clutter our minds. The grandeur of the landscape reminds us that the little things may not matter as much as we think they do.
These moments are mini-meditations, whether you are doing it with intention or not.
Meditating in nature yields something that can’t quite be defined. It opens you up with its expansiveness, and you feel connected to a greater whole. Plus it’s a lot easier than sitting near the distractions of daily life, like the dishes or your computer. Of course, you can meditate in your home and still see benefits. But getting outside offers a valuable change of perspective.
One reason it’s good to get out is that we live a large chunk of our lives on “autopilot.” We do very simple tasks without even noticing them. We may not even notice when subtle things around us change. Stepping outside of the familiar automatically triggers a more mindful approach. We have to pay more careful attention to our surroundings, and move with intention. So it’s a good idea to meditate in a new environment. And even better when it’s outdoors.
When meditating outdoors, you can focus on the sounds — or silence — around you. It’s a whole different experience, and it’s invaluable for turning off autopilot. If you’re sitting by a river, pay attention to the way the water moves over rocks or shimmers in the light; if you’re in the gorge, watch swallows as they dip and soar through the steep walls. Listen to the wind move up a mountainside and rustle through the trees — inhale the scent of sage, or the sweet vanilla overtone of ponderosa. Avoid labeling these things or letting yourself think about them. Just notice — and if you’re watching closely enough, you won’t be thinking about the minutiae of your daily life.
If you’re already the outdoorsy type, make sure to set aside a few minutes to sit and breathe at some point during your hike. Or, if you’re not super active on the trails, there are some easy places you can visit right in, or very near, town. Take a slow walk through one of our parks, or on a nature trail. Set aside a few moments to sit on a bench and just breathe. Make an appointment outside that doesn’t involve doing anything at all, and enjoy the grandeur of Taos.
For more about Mel’s meditation instruction, you can find her online teachings on the free Insight Timer app: https://insighttimer.com/meljames.