Maeve Jones is teaching the Sensory Forest Immersion class at Wanderlust Whistler in BC, Canada, which is currently sold out.
Have you ever watched leaves unfurl in the spring? They emerge from what seems like nothing and explode into righteous, full-fledged living. By June, they’re blossoming so incessantly that we forget they ever didn’t.
Nature is a world of palpable magic. In the forest, joy overflows from what looks like nothing. Everywhere you look, organisms are interacting with each other in perfect symphony and with astonishing grace. It’s ordinary; it’s intelligent; it’s magic.
A great intelligence is at work in the forest, and it’s greening everything to life just because it can. And here’s a little secret: The same intelligence is at work in you, too.
Nature Is the Ultimate Teacher
When you can experience nature’s goodness with your mind and your senses, you come home to the truth that all is well. You invite your nervous system to relax, and your mind to soften. There is a force at work here that’s bigger than all of us, and it is good. The delightful impulse of life in all things is joyous and creative. It is only concerned with coming to life to express its nature. It opposes nothing. It is pure grace.
When you get into nature, you have an opportunity to reconnect with that great big goodness and absorb it—and begin to feel the same peaceful intelligence reflected in yourself, too. Because after all, we are also a part of nature. The very same intelligence at work in the great outdoors is directing your heart to beat, your cells to renew, and your nervous system to circulate information all day long. So, by heading out into nature and doing a practice like the one here, you can come home to the impulse of life in you that wants to express itself and be free—and align with the great wisdom in all things.
To get started, I invite you to go outside and engage your five senses, which will help you experience this magic. You’ll get in touch with what is by sensing things one at a time. This helps to quiet your mind and get you connected with your felt and lived experience. This is an especially powerful practice if you have been feeling disconnected; this immersion into nature will help you center and reconnect with what matters most to you.
Read these instructions first, make notes if you need, then put away your devices and make space to connect with yourself. Bring a blanket to sit on, walk into a patch of nature—a forest if possible, or the greenest space near you—and take your time. Pause between each instruction, so you can slow down and settle into feeling peace.
How to Create a Sensory Forest Immersion Class in Your Own Backyard
Step 1: Get Grounded
Before you enter your nature space, turn off your notifications and put away your devices. You won’t need them. Carve out this time to be present.
Now, sit or stand and close your eyes. Just for a moment, be still. Be completely still. This time is for you.
Take 5 deep breaths. In your mind, let go of what you were just doing or how you want this to turn out, and just be here with yourself. Be exactly as you already are.
Step 2: Really Listen
Open your eyes and begin to walk slowly into your patch of nature. After a minute or so, come to a stop. Stand perfectly still and open your ears.
What do you hear? What sounds are unfolding around you? How does that sound change? What happens if you turn your head one way or the other? Can you hear different things?
Wow, you get to hear things. What a gift it is to perceive this world using your ears! What is the loudest sound you can hear? What is the most subtle sound you can hear? How does it feel just to listen? How does it feel to be silent? Remain very quiet, as though the forest is whispering secrets to you. Then, open your eyes and continue walking slowly so that you can hear your own footsteps on the ground. Notice what they say about your walk, and what they say about the ground you’re on.
You are here.
Step 3: Smell Your Surroundings
Take a moment to notice what you smell. Does it smell fresh or clear? What is the texture of the air around you? What does the smell tell you about this place? How do you feel taking this air into your lungs? Continue walking, a little more slowly than usual, as you take in the smells surrounding you.
Step 4: Look Around and Really See What’s There
What happens when you stop completely, and just look at what’s right here next to you? What can you see? Slow down, so you can really see it.
Now, look down at the ground. Get close to the ground and check it out. What can you see down here that you might have missed standing up or walking through? Next, look up. Way up. What’s up there? If you have a blanket, lie down on it. Sense the enormity of the sky. Sense the uniform reach of all the things up into it. Reach your arms up into it, too.
What’s being revealed to you through your senses, through seeing? What can you see in more detail that you didn’t notice before? Is there a message here for you?
Step 5: Taste What You Think You Is Tasteless
What is the taste in your mouth? What is the taste of the air? Is there a taste from yourself that you have brought to this space? Wonderful. Does it change when you’re in this space?
Walk if you like, or stay in one place. Just notice what you taste.
Step 6: Touch Things Around You
Leaves, branches, rocks, moss, sap, tree bark—touch everything. Feel the texture. Touch without the need to take anything. Let everything be as it is.
Notice how it feels to be literally connected with the things around you. Notice how it grounds you in this present moment. Repeat this mantra silently: I am here, now. I am real, now. I am a sensing living human.
What energy do things give you when you touch them? What memories do they evoke?
Now throw something. Go ahead, throw it. Hear the sound it makes, and the feelings it brings up. Is there some message that nature is silently transmitting to you? Close your eyes and check. Stay here for a moment. Become very quiet. How does it feel to have this forest air touching your skin?
Step 7: Finally, Really Feel How You Feel
Now, be still. If you have a blanket, lie down on your back. Just feel.
Can you feel the aliveness around you? Can you feel the power of the ground beneath you? Can you feel how you are filled with the same vibrant spark of all these wonderous things? Soak it all in. Absorb the simple peace. All is well. There is nothing missing from this scene.
Allow plenty of time to steep in the goodness. Do nothing. Just soak it up.
Step 8: Come Back
As you steep here at the end of this practice, place a hand on your heart. Feel your heart beating under the touch of your hands. Immerse in the simple feeling of peace and the beautiful sense of space. Remember, you are a part of this scene. You belong here.
When you feel ready, slowly open your eyes and come back to life. Take your time getting up. Notice how you feel different. Commit to bring the benefits of this exercise into your day and your whole life. And remember, nature is whispering to you to thrive and be well. It’s whispering pure love! This is your deepest essence. Know that—and use this forest sensory practice any time you lose sight of yourself.