Turning Thoughts Off and Nature On

Sometimes, to wind down, I go to a park nearby for a walk. Last month, I observed an interesting phenomenon.

While walking, I kept worrying about a problem related to work. It had been occupying my mind ever since I left my desk. At a certain point, I stopped thinking about it. I realized as soon as I stopped thinking, I could now proactively engage my senses with my beautiful surroundings. I could hear birds chirping, kids playing and running in circles, people breathing, talking and laughing. I could enjoy the fragrance of flowers, and petrichor. I could see nature and people around me. I could also derive pleasure from touching trees and beautiful flowers.

Then at a certain point, another problem entered my brain. Again, when I stopped thinking about it, I noticed beautiful nature; hope, energy, and excitement in the park. It was like a game. Turn on the worrying thoughts, everything around you is foreign. Turn those thoughts off, nature, hope, energy and excitement await.

With uneasy thoughts running, the experience of engaging and enjoying nature in a park is incomplete, since you cannot engage all of your senses (as senses become subservient to thoughts in the mind). To create a valuable experience and get greater inspiration from nature, all senses should be engaged. Doing this creates the whole experience  -- for one, we cannot enjoy a great meal with eyes closed and nose blocked. Moreover, if the experience of engaging all senses wasn’t important, watching a video of a park on a computer would be equally satisfying and inspiring. To engage all senses, to let nature inspire us, we should occasionally turn off our thoughts.

It is true that completely turning off those thoughts in a natural setting would not help.  Sometimes lovely scenery can help improve our thought processes and give us a unique perspective on a problem we’re facing. But it is also important to let those thoughts rest for a while in order to appreciate nature or just rest our minds.

How do I turn these thoughts off? Well, it is hard for me to point out a general solution, since this is more of a casual observation, but the following is what I have been trying so far. First, I try to make a conscious effort to live in the present moment. The present is all I have and I try to embrace it while in nature instead of dwelling on the past or future, since I cannot control either.

Also, one has to have a belief that the outcome of valuing the present moment is most rewarding. Another thing that appears to be working for me is to allocate a certain area within a park to do this. So while in this area, my goal is to focus only on nature. Beyond that area, I can think of other things, but within it I try to resist thinking about other stuff.

This has been helping so far. It is peaceful, and refreshing, to just absorb and enjoy everything around me with my thoughts off, something I cherish even after I get back to my desk. I carry that same hope and excitement, as they can be contagious. So while out in nature, the lesson for me is to deliberately turn off agonizing thoughts. I will carry on the experiment and may update it in a future post.

Farewell.