What is a Mindful Outdoor Experience (MOE)?
Briefly, a Mindful Outdoor Experience (MOE) is a guided 9-step immersion into a deeper connection with self and nature through a series of invitations, including orientation to place, mind-body integration, exploration of nature and the more than human world, and meditation. MOEs are led by a certified Kripalu Mindful Outdoor Guide, and vary in time, place, and experience, depending on the guide, participants, and location.
After experiencing a MOE, you realize this experience is actually so much more than the description. The felt sense of connection with this planet and the living beings within it can be a deeply enriching spiritual experience, an effective method of stress-reduction, or simply an excuse to get outside (as if you needed one).
Though we may explore various types of terrain, there is no rigorous pace or conquering of obstacles taking place; simply increased awareness, appreciation, and space. No obligations, no destination, no expectations.
Event dates coming soon. Stay tuned!
The Science and the Benefits
As many professionals are highlighting, stress-related issues have become an epidemic (World Health Organization) and the number one killer of Americans (CDC) over the 21st century. Even more than pre-industrial revolution, the expectations, demands, and obligations of humans is at an alltime high. This matter is not helped by the increased demand of instant gratification. Though initially designed to make life more convenient, modern technologies have seemed to increase expectations, and leave us with only the illusion of connection, while actually keeping us at arms length of the world outside our walls. Meanwhile, our impact to the earth has steadily become more and more catastrophic.
When we are stressed, we are more susceptible to automatic reactions, increased cortisol levels, decreased digestion, and a spectrum of physiological and psychological issues when the stress becomes chronic. Over time, chronic stress changes our baseline operation, keeping our Sympathetic Nervous System more active than it needs to be. What does this mean? We are more likely to find a threat, or interpret external stimuli as a threat, because we're looking for one. We're wired to survive. When we interpret a threat, our stress response is activated (fight, flight, freeze, submit). When we later realize our reactions were incongruent, we may experience shame, anxiety, more stress.
The benefits and impact to our health that comes from being in nature, specifically among trees has been researched at length in Asia over the past decade, primarily through the Japanese practice of Shinrin Yoku (translated as forest bathing), or forest therapy. Trees release phytoncides that, when taken in by humans, are believed to increase production and function of Natural Killer Cells in our bodies. Research over the past decade has shown many benefits to our reconnection with the more than human world, including:
boosts in immune system functioning
increased parasympathetic nervous system activity, meaning improved ability to reduce stress
decreased depressive symptoms (Terman et al., 1998; Geol et al., 2005)
decreases in blood pressure
decreases in symptoms of anxiety
We came from nature; therefore, it makes sense that we are benefited by being in it; not just in it, but a part of it. Richard Louv (2006) proposes that humans are suffering with Nature Deficit Disorder, especially our youth. This condition comes with a high cost for our detachment from nature, including higher occurrence of physical and emotional illness, diminished use of our senses, and difficulties with attention/focus.
In the U.S., people spend approximately 90% of their lives indoors and about 11 hours per day on a screen - 77 hours per week. To add perspective, 40-80 hours per week online was determined to be indicative of an internet addiction by the CDC in the late 90s. Recent studies show that children in the USA are spending, on average, 8 hours per day on media outside of school. One study showed that 75% of children in the UK spend less time outside than prison inmates. Additionally, 2.6 million children are believed to experience anxiety or depression in the United States (CDC).
You may notice your body's stress response kicking in simply by reading these statistics and findings; however, all is not lost. An awakening is emerging toward recognizing and pursuing our natural connection to the earth and life within it. Studies in the UK have shown that spending just 2 hours per week in nature is correlated with statistically significant boosts in physical and psychological health. Even gazing out of a window viewing green space is shown to have benefits in our relationship to stress.
Mindful Outdoor Experiences will be guided by Patrick Bryant, in various settings, including urban parks, nature preserves, and even the Blue Ridge Mountains. You do not need to be an experienced hiker or outdoors expert to participate. All that is required is curiosity and enough physical capability to walk on trails. MOEs range in duration from 1 - 3 hours, and even include weekend-long overnight retreats. Details about the gear you will need during overnight trips will be provided on specific event pages (coming soon). There will be no need purchase expensive equipment. For the 1-3 hour MOEs, you just need comfortable walking shoes and water. You may even be tempted to take your shoes off to truly feel the connection with the earth beneath you.
Meet your Guide
Patrick is a certified Level 1 Kripalu Mindful Outdoor Guide by the Kripalu School for Outdoor Leadership, as well as a Certified Mindfulness-Informed Clinician. He has a deep love for and spiritual connection with nature, affectionately known as "the more than human world" at Kripalu. Since childhood, Patrick has enjoyed spending time outside, whether recreationally, professionally, or engaging in mindful practice. Patrick also has over a decade of personal meditation practice, embracing and embodying teachings from Shambhala, Indigenous cultures and traditions, and various professional trainings in mindfulness-based psychotherapy approaches, including Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy.