What is Mindful Trails?
Briefly, this way of connecting with nature is rooted in the Kripalu Mindful Outdoor Experience (MOE), a guided 9-step immersion into a deeper connection with self and the more than human world through mindfulness, movement, gratitude, and more. Mindful Trails invites participants on a guided journey toward deeper understanding of, and connection to place, as well as enhancing mindful practices of sensory awareness, meditation, environmental awareness, and gratitude. Mindful Trails is led by Patrick Bryant, a Kripalu Certified Mindful Outdoor Guide. For this 1-3 hour mindful nature connection, you're invited to explore forested areas local to you. Weekend retreats in the North GA mountains include deeper immersion, connection, and enlightenment.
While participating in a Mindful Trails nature immersion, you realize this experience is so much more than a hike and
meditation. The deep sense of connection with place and the abundant life within it can be a deeply enriching
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.
Through curiosity, exploration, and connection, we build confidence, gratitude, purpose, and balanced health.
The Science and the Benefits
As many health professionals are beginning to highlight, stress-related issues are a significant concern (World Health Organization) and are associated with six leading causes of death in the U.S. (CDC). 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, constant validation, and consumption overload. Though initially designed to make life more convenient, some modern technologies have seemed to hinder as much as aid, leaving us with only the illusion of connection and an intolerance for discomfort. Many find more connection with their phone than than the life around them. Additionally, our disconnect from nature has led us to a greater desensitization toward the ways we impact it. At risk of being hyperbolic, one could argue that reconnecting with nature is not only saving ourselves, but the planet itself.
Not all stress is bad. In fact, our perception of stress, and relationship to it, plays a large role in its impact on us, according to Kelley McGonigal. What we know about stress is that chronic stress (heightened sympathetic NS arousal without coming back down to baseline) can have serious consequences on our physiological and psychological health, impact our interpersonal relationships, and even impact how we view ourselves.
The benefits and impact to our health from being in nature, specifically in forested areas, has been researched at length in various ways. Most recently, Shinrin Yoku, or Forest Therapy, has shown many health benefits of being immersed in a forested area for as little as two hours per week. Health benefits include:
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 respond to stressors
decreased depressive symptoms (Terman et al., 1998; Geol et al., 2005)
decreases in heart rate and blood pressure (Song, Ikei, Miyazaki, 2016)
improved heart rate variability - syncing of breath and heart beat in appropriate response to arousal
decreased stress and cortisol (Song, Ikei, Miyazaki, 2016)
decreases in symptoms of anxiety (Ikei, et al, 2014)
For most of human existence, 99% in fact, we've lived in close relation to the outdoors (Richard Louv, 2006). Only recently has this shifted, such that adults in the U.S. are now spending approximately 90% of their lives indoors and approximately 11 hours or more per day on a screen. U.S. children are on a screen approximately eight hours per day outside of school-related content, and know nature through a window, photo, or video. Depression, anxiety, suicide attempts and completions, burnout, and workplace stress are all being reported at higher rates than ever.
The good news is that we are not doomed. One very simple, very accessible remedy for our plight can be simply getting outside. Find a trail, an urban park, a campground. Even green gazing out of a window or adding live plants to your living and working spaces can be helpful. If you need extra motivation to reconnect with the abundant life in our natural world, consider the value of your health. I'm honored to be a guide on this journey inward as you expand your awareness and connection outward. Even if you hike regularly, even if you have a mindfulness practice, you may notice being in nature in this specific way deepens your connection to self and other life, improves gratitude and compassion, and enhances your health in ways you have yet to experience.
Curious? Join us on your own adventure.
Mindful Trails are 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 benefit. All that is required is curiosity and enough physical capability to walk on trails. Mindful Trails range in duration from 1.5 - 3 hours, or weekend-long overnight retreats. Details about the gear needed during overnight trips will be provided on specific event pages. There will be no need to purchase expensive equipment. For the Mindful Trails, you just need comfortable walking shoes, appropriate clothing for the weather, and water. You may even be tempted to take your shoes off to truly feel your connection with the earth beneath you.
Individuals * Small Groups * Organizations
Meet your Guide
Patrick is a Certified Mindful Outdoor Guide credentialed 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." Since childhood, Patrick has enjoyed spending time outside, whether recreationally, professionally, or engaging in mindful practice. He has extensive experience hiking, camping, and navigating the wilderness. Patrick also has over a decade of personal and professional mindfulness 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. In his therapy practice, Patrick specializes in Men's Health, navigating stress, and building confidence in deeper levels of purpose and identity