Mindful Outdoor Experiences
Connect with nature; reconnect with self.
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 the natural world. Participants are led through a series of invitations, including an orientation to the land and its people, mind-body integration, exploration of nature and the more than human world, and meditation practice. MOEs are led by a certified Kripalu Mindful Outdoor Guide, and vary in time, place, and experience, depending on the guide, participants, and location.
While participating in a MOE, you realize this experience is so much more than a hike, or even meditation.
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, and 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.
No obligations, no destination, no expectations; simply increased awareness, appreciation, and space to breathe.
The Science and the Benefits
As many health professionals are beginning to highlight, stress-related issues have become an epidemic (World Health Organization) and the number one killer of Americans (CDC) over the course of the 21st century. Different than pre-industrial revolution, many of our stressors and "threats" are created by societal norms, unrealistic expectations, needs for perfection, and an unhealthy enmeshment with instant gratification and constant validation. Though initially designed to make life more convenient, modern technologies have seemed to hinder as much as aid, leaving us with only the illusion of connection. Instead, we remain at arms length (or screen's length) of the world outside our walls. Additionally, our disconnect from the natural world and the multitude of life within it, has led us to a greater desensitization toward the ways we negatively impact it. At risk of being hyperbolic, one
could argue that reconnecting with the more than human world (rewilding, as it's called in some circles) is not only saving ourselves, but the planet itself.
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 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 (Li, 2010). Research over the past decade has shown many benefits to spending time in nature:
boosts in immune system functioning (Li, Kobayashi, Kawakda, 2008)
increased attention and productivity (Song, Ikei, Miyazaki, 2016) (Louv 2006)
increased parasympathetic nervous system activity, meaning improved ability to reduce stress
decreased depressive symptoms (Terman et al., 1998; Geol et al., 2005)
decreases in heart rate and blood pressure (Song, Ikei, Miyazaki, 2016)
decreased stress and cortisol (Song, Ikei, Miyazaki, 2016)
decreases in symptoms of anxiety (Ikei, et al, 2014)
We came from nature; therefore, it makes sense that we are benefited by being in it; 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 by the CDC in the late 90s to be indicative of an internet addiction. Recent studies show that children in the USA are spending, on average, 8 hours per day on media outside of school. Additionally, 2.6 million children are believed to experience anxiety or depression in the United States (CDC). One study showed that 75% of children in the UK spend less time outside than prison inmates.
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.
Curious? Want to try it out?
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 needed 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.
Individuals * Small Groups * Organizations
Meet your Guide
Patrick is a Certified 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 spiritual and cultural influences, as well as professional training in mindfulness-based psychotherapy approaches, such as Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy.