It doesn’t matter what mental state you find yourself in, they change all the time, but I guarantee that if you are able to get out into nature, it will improve. Even if you simply start to take stock of the positive, if you start to see what is around you with gratitude and through the eyes of appreciation, if you can practise seeing the beauty, then uplift will follow .
To simply go for a walk, to see the world, especially nature, cannot help but lift low spirits and confused minds. Looking outward, dropping commentary, dropping into the body. To walk amidst the change of the weathers and the seasons, and see that each is unique and beautiful, this is the path of happiness.
The way the light catches this tree or that flower, the elegant soaring flight of a bird high above. The swaying and dappling of the long grass in the breeze. The sound of the rain, the look of it in puddles, the wonderful patterns it makes, the nourishment of the earth. The feel of it on your skin, the gentle caress of air.
Simply try to be present, fully in your body. A good way in is in the sensations in the hands as you walk, the touch of air, that tingling which is your chi and your life. The sensations on your face, noticing you might be holding tension, breathing it out and relaxing. Breathing out your worries, breathing out tension and stress, and moving your focus from the mind to the body. Breathe your attention out into the world.
Look as if you were a painter, listen as if to a piece of beautiful music, smell as if all the teachings in the world were in the scent of a single flower. Touch as if cuddling the elements and dancing with the wind, feet alive with earth, and never forget to look up!
Have you ever stopped in your tracks and really experienced a tree? It can be appreciated both through wonder and concept – its amazing form and function, its ability to live and grow. The way in which the roots mirror the branches, as above so below. The way it can be utterly still or bend in the wind, harbour to all kinds of living beings, connecting heaven and earth, totally synergistic. Some of them are huge, and their seasonal displays are dazzling. How does it feel? I wonder if it experiences presence, tingling in its branches like you feel it in your hands? Is there knowing?
Or of course, you can drop all thought and concept and explanation, and simply experience it. Touch it. Look at it steadily. Let its presence be yours. Silence in mind, just tree. Just you.
To see as if you become the tree. Learn to look so you become the moon, or the sky or the stars. One.
I love the rhythm of walking as well, the sounds and the flowing movement. You are free to stop and stare, to touch plants and grass as a child would. To sing or whistle, to talk to yourself.
Smell the flowers, touch them, hear them, listen to the world. Close your eyes and listen to it all. You don’t need a grand insight, or to direct things, all you have to do is relax and enjoy it. Thats all!
Not everything has to have purpose, let yourself revel in the complete uselessness of it all, the joy of living, free from purpose or plan. Watch as the wind makes the world dance, leaf and bough, flower and stem, rippling reality as though moved by an animating force or principle.
A senseless meaningless movement, a play which also plays with your face and your hair, your skin and your breath, the dance is you too. Let it connect you, the soft melodies of the breeze and the sensations of movement on skin reflect and mirror the swaying flower and leaf. Let it connect you, let it be you. Enjoy this being, this moment, this life.
Seeing the beauty is like learning to be grateful. In fact the two go hand in hand, are a part of each other. They spark and feed each other; you appreciate the beauty of a skyscape, so you feel touched and inspired, which makes you feel grateful, which makes the sky even more beautiful to you.
In this way you ascend, you elevate your spirit in a spiral to higher and higher levels. The next thing you see is spontaneously seen with the eyes of the sublime. The next sound is heard with ears of relaxed enjoyment. The appreciation, the gratitude, simply switches its focus to the next sense object, the next thought. Gradually this awe, this revelling in, will pervade it all.
It is possible to live in this world fully alive to ever increasing layers of beauty. In touch with earth and season and elements. Even in the city, there is so much to appreciate and wonder, so much provided for you, so much human spirit and endeavour and creativity.
The more you are in touch with beauty and gratitude, the more it pervades your experience. Life simply becomes beautiful, a beautiful experience, something that you see as a matter of course. Its always there waiting for you to open up to it, to find it in the details or the majesty, in the human spirit or the natural world.
Make a promise to yourself today, to spend a little time with appreciation, with beauty. If it strikes you suddenly, in a park or round the corner, allow yourself to stop and admire. Allow yourself to be aware, to drop the stories, to be in body, to wonder at life and form, and to notice how it lifts you.
If you can, next time you are transported with simple appreciation of it all, sit with it. Close your eyes and feel it, breathe it in, let it fill you. If you meditate now, at that moment, you are going to have an experience of union and rapture. Turn it into metta, may all beings feel as you do now, may all beings be this happy.
And in that height is the beauty of you, the unique jewel that you are. Perhaps a glimpse of the highest in you, the pure radiant lover underneath the crust, the perfect vessel for love. If you can truly appreciate this you can touch the gratitude for and hug all the people in your life, for are they not sunshine in a smile?
May you learn that happiness is not in the big success or achievement, not in the next drink or pill, but in learning to feel the exquisite beauty of the simple things. The sun on your face, the breeze on your hands, the gentle enlivening caress of the breath and the wonderful peaceful brightness in meditation. It is so easy to forget how achingly and overwhelmingly beautiful this world is. May you appreciate it all, every little thing.
Just to appreciate the freedom, to actually have the freedom to have a moment like this. You are not so blinkered that you are unable to have this opening out, this dropping into experience and reality. Even if you are deeply suffering there is still the ability to sense, to feel, to experience, to meditate and to grow. To be in this moment is the only and the ultimate freedom.
There is so much beauty within. Like a sniff of a dream the absolute.
And as for meditation, well here such beauties await that would stupefy and shatter. Your experience beautifies infinitely, and with it your appreciation and your love. The subtle feeling and sensation, the exquisite awakening of the senses, the indescribable formless planes, vistas, and oceans of colours new to swim in, and of course the experiences not of this world.