There’s an exercise I’m fond of doing which I don’t do often, mainly because it requires sitting comfortably outdoors for a period of time, and in the frustrating climate of the British Isles, it’s a rare occasion when it’s both dry and warm enough to do so!
Having said that, it’s an exercise I’m sure you will find beneficial too.
I sit on a hill near my home and relax by making myself comfortable and breathing deeply in and out, holding my breath for a short period with each inhalation and then slowly releasing it while willing myself to relax more and more.
When I feel relaxed I begin the exercise. It’s really very simple, as it involves nothing more complicated than just ‘looking’, or rather ‘seeing.’
I begin by looking out to the horizon and then bring my gaze steadily closer to home, taking in the landscape from the furthest point I can see, back to the hill I’m sitting on. I look carefully at the way both nature and humans have shaped the landscape over time. I look at the contrast of form and colour between the natural environment and the towns and villages.
I see the river and reservoir, the roads and pylons. I take in the woods and far hills as well as the farmyards and ploughed fields. I try to be non-judgemental when I see something I would ordinarily consider a ‘blot on the landscape.’ Instead I try to think about the human efforts and achievements behind it.
After a while, I focus my attention on my more immediate environment.
I look at the individual trees and shrubs around me, the flowers on the hillside, and human created structures such as fences, gates and water troughs.I watch the cattle and sheep, and with my binoculars I take a closer look at the birds and butterflies nearby.
I try to take in as much detail as possible, all the time looking at tones and shades of colour, the light, shadows, texture, form and even try to feel the spaces in between the various solid objects.
The idea is to see what I wouldn’t ordinarily see if I were just walking along the hilltop glancing casually from side to side.
Finally, I begin to take a very close look at the world that is within just a metre from where I’m sitting. Being very careful not to cause too much disturbance, I start to gently explore the long grass closest to me. I notice the different varieties of grasses with their long and graceful stems and perfectly formed seed heads.
I note the way the grass moves in the gentle breeze before I part the grass, take a closer look and marvel at the tiny sizes and diversity of the creatures living in this habitat. By simply parting the grass, I have discovered a whole new micro-world; and with my magnifying glass I explore in even greater detail this tiny patch of amazing life forms.
So what’s the point of the exercise? Well, I find it immensely relaxing and uplifting, but also endlessly fascinating to observe nature to the extent that I can almost feel its beauty.
How many of us can honestly say that we truly see the things around us every day?
We of course look all the time, but do we do it in such a manner that we really see nature? Taking in a lot of detail in a relaxed, almost casual manner, yet still exercising mental control over what we retain and what we discard as superfluous, not only opens our eyes but it opens our heart to beauty everywhere.
Whenever I do this exercise, my mind is absorbed with thoughts of the wonder of creation and I’m filled with higher emotions. I find myself contemplating the universal forces innate in all things and I can feel, not only see, a beauty that is not ordinarily experienced. There is no doubt in my mind and heart at such times that I’m attuning with a mysterious power that is within and all around me; a power that’s ineffably beautiful, peaceful, graceful and sometimes overwhelming.
Although I’m experiencing only a small portion of the beauty and peace that could be mine, it’s more than enough to lift and temporarily release me from the ordinariness of life. But it’s more than enough to enhance my ever-increasing awareness of the sanctity of all life and particularly that within my own being.
Try it for yourself. There’s so much more to just looking when one really begins to see.