So much has been written about exercising outside. There are outdoor workout routines, safety tips for extreme weather, clothing pieces that wick moisture, lists of park exercise equipment and so on. Consequently, I wanted to write something you may not have read much about and so I decided on providing a mindful tweak in perspective.
Outdoor exercise is an essential grounding activity that you do every day whether planned or not. Every time you walk outside your home, you experience both physical and mental contact with the environment. Even so, we may not consciously acknowledge this phenomena. Nevertheless, if you kick your mindfulness up a notch, you might find your appreciation grows by leaps and bounds. Simple engagement of your senses while being outdoors will enable spiritual growth, not to mention all the benefits of physical activity.
Becoming mindful and developing sensual awareness includes visual, audio, olfactory and tactile senses. I encourage you not to engage your taste sensation at this time. Leave that for after your workout. Maybe a healthy smoothie or nutritious snack will build your constitution, as it is just as important to be mindful of what you eat. Food rhymes with mood and these two factors together create a happier you. That is the goal, right? More peace. More fitness. More gratitude. More joy.
Whether you are walking, kayaking, hiking or whatever you choose, take notice of your surroundings. The beauty and symmetry in nature are something to be observed and respected. Your visual sense will stimulate gratitude as you become thankful for your life force, the ability to see and that supports you. It is time to view this visual sense through a different lens. Beauty is not always something that needs to be captured. Rather it is something to admire and appreciate reverentially. It is a gift that we must not take for granted.
The serenity and calm derived through the sense of hearing can take your mind to another level altogether. When you stop to listen, your mind quiets and the ability to find inner peace strengthens. Your focus may shift in such a way as to soothe the nervous system. Make a mental note of your favorite sounds. One of mine is the sound of leaves as they blow through the wind and clap against each other. A commonly agreed calming sound is waves crashing against the shoreline. You might hear a stream of water nearby, birds chirping, children playing or the sound of your own feet as they hit the pavement or press on grass. Let your audio sense magnify tranquility through active listening. Connection with your environment grows tremendously through this sensual training.
Sense of smell is the most dynamic sense we have. It is through scent that we become aroused in relationships. Pheromones play a part in this as do fragrances. The memory of a scent can stay with you for a lifetime. I still remember the smell of mothballs when I went to visit my grandmother. I encourage you not to judge a scent as you approach it, especially if it is not a pleasant one. Of course, if you find yourself around a meadow of beautiful flowers, enjoy the lofty bouquet. Appreciate the aroma of fresh, crisp air as you walk your dog. Simply by noticing the incense around, you can expand your mind and elevate your spirit.
Physical touch can be exciting, calming, painful, soothing, etc. An element of cultivating self-love is to change focus from prideful ego to healthy self-respect. This includes the development of respect for all things (i.e. nature, people, outcomes). Gaining fulfillment through this sense involves awareness of every sensation imaginable. Noticing every nuance of a physical sensation will give you more self-understanding. For example, while kayaking you might pay attention to water temperature or heat from the sun on your skin. How does it make you feel? How does the paddle feel in your hands?
Becoming sensually aware in this physical arena will further your insight, help you find your center and learn acceptance for life as it is. The nature of physicality is that it is only temporary. Subject to time and space. That doesn’t mean you cannot learn this skill to strengthen self-love. When we love ourselves, we learn how to love others. When we respect ourselves, we learn how to respect others.
We are so much more than just physical bodies. In fact, in many philosophies the body is simply the shell or house of the more essential element of our existence. Our true self is the spirit that sits behind the eyes, observing the landscape of our lives. We only experience the world through our senses; however, the real power in our lives is derived from our minds. Motivation increases energy that then gives rise to movement. Mindful intention results in a life lived to its fullest. Experiencing the elements of soul power through outdoor awareness will transfer to all areas of your life, thus enabling you to be present with the people we love, doing the things we love.
While on the surface outdoor awareness appears to simply be the act of being outside, you must not forget an entire world resides within you. Through mindful practice, each sense will give rise to a more vibrant life. All your fitness and mindful endeavors will have much more meaning beyond the obvious.
About the Author
Leah Rachel Friedman holds a Bachelor of Arts in Recreation and Health Education. She is also a certified Medical Exercise Specialist/Personal Trainer/Group Fitness Instructor. Leah has traveled the globe training and teaching in every venue of fitness for decades. Some of her personal training includes proprioception designed to target the part of the brain responsible for balance. She works with all medical conditions including ADHD.