There are many different types of meditation that can be practised on your Forest visits. As the chestnuts fall from the trees and escape their prickly cases, we are going to use the pleasing feel and look of a shiny, smooth chestnut to practise focussed-attention (FA) meditation.
What is focussed-attention meditation?
Focussed-attention meditation is where you meditate focussing solely on one thing. In many practices this might be your own breath, but some may find it easier to have a physical item on which to cast their focus, in this case the chestnut. By focusing on the details of the item we choose, we keep our mind from tracking into the past or the future. It must keep exploring the item in the present moment, right now.
This differs from the very popular mindfulness meditation (https://www.heartofenglandforest.com/news/birdsong-and-mindfulness/) which asks you to non-judgmentally observe whatever sights, sounds and smells arise during your meditation.
It is completely normal for our mind to wander sometimes. Perhaps the chestnut reminds us of a childhood memory or a recent walk in the countryside, and our mind takes us back there. Once you notice you mind doing this, just acknowledge that thought and come back to the chestnut in your hand.
The benefits of focussed-attention meditation
There are many reasons to try this type of meditation on your next Forest walk, as research suggests that it can:
- Lower stress levels
- Improve problem-solving abilities
- Decrease tendency for procrastination
Try it out yourself
Next time you are in the Forest or your local park, kick the fallen leaves aside and seek out a chestnut, follow the steps below and see how you feel:
- Either in a quiet spot in the Forest or back in the comfort of your home, hold the chestnut in the palm of your hand and set a timer on your phone for 5 minutes. For the next 5 minutes you will explore and examine this chestnut, keeping your attention focussed on this small token of autumn in your hand.
- What does the chestnut look like? What does it really look like? Are there any blemishes or bumps? How symmetrical is it? What colours can you see in its casing?
- What does the chestnut feel like? You can close your eyes for this and move it around in your hand. How does it feel on your skin? Is it rough? Smooth? A mix of both? How firm is it?
- Keep examining your chestnut until the time is up. We have started with 5 minutes because this level of focus can feel tough at first. Stick at it and keep practicing and you will soon want to do it for longer periods.
Give it a try and tell us how you feel #feelgoodforest
Feel good in the Forest
Phongsuphap S, Pongsupap Y, Chandanamattha P, Lursinsap C. Changes in heart rate variability during concentration meditation. Int J Cardiol. 2008 Nov 28;130(3):481-4. doi: 10.1016/j.ijcard.2007.06.103. Epub 2007 Aug 30. PMID: 17764770. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/17764770/
Hasenkamp W, Wilson-Mendenhall CD, Duncan E, Barsalou LW. Mind wandering and attention during focused meditation: a fine-grained temporal analysis of fluctuating cognitive states. Neuroimage. 2012 Jan 2;59(1):750-60. doi: 10.1016/j.neuroimage.2011.07.008. Epub 2011 Jul 14. PMID: 21782031. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/21782031/