By Serafina Gerard, Field Specialist

“Being aware of the fullness of our experience awakens us to the inner world of our mind and immerses us completely in our lives.”

Daniel J Siegel, The Mindful Brain.

Mindfulness is to notice one’s moment-to-moment experience, with acceptance and without judgment. In Eastern philosophy, it is believed that the root of suffering lies in the inability to be fully present in our lives and accept where we are. Suffering occurs when we ruminate on the past and when we worry about a future that may never come. These teachings go back thousands of years, and yet for us who are living in modern society, it seems to be a fairly new concept. Or rather, it’s making a sort of comeback! More and more scientific studies are coming out about the benefits of mindfulness. Here is one such study: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3679190/.

It’s no wonder, considering our fast-paced lives and the countless distractions at our fingertips, that we need to consciously slow down. The natural world is a wonderful place to do this. One of the best ways to slow down and get grounded is to actually sit on the ground. A five senses meditation is a very different experience when you are perched in the mountains, feeling the breeze brush your skin, listening to the sounds of a nearby creek, and smelling the wildflowers. It has the ability to bring us out of our heads and broaden our scope of awareness. Being in that setting allows us to really BE in the moment. 

The benefit of being in nature is something best understood through experience. I can feel my own nervous system relax when I step outside. In fact, I know for myself my mental health begins to decline the more time I spend inside. And while this may not be true for everyone, (I imagine many people have more of a tolerance for being indoors). I strongly believe in the positive effects of being in the wilderness. 

At Juniper Canyon Recovery Center, many of our clients come to us with an overly taxed, stressed-out nervous system. These women often exist in a place of “fight or flight.” When we are living in this place it is incredibly difficult to be in our bodies or with ourselves, and so it is easy to turn to drugs, alcohol, or other types of distraction in order to cope. This is where mindfulness skills can be incredibly helpful. We need the ability and the tools to bring our nervous systems down into “rest and digest.” In order to heal trauma, addiction, depression, or whatever psychological issues we might be facing, it is important that our bodies and minds be receptive.

Yoga, meditation, breathing techniques, and distress tolerance are all tools we at Juniper Canyon teach our clients and practice daily. Much of what we do while on our adventures also inherently demands a state of mindfulness. When you are climbing a rock wall, maneuvering through a slot canyon or riding a mountain bike, it is difficult to be anywhere but in the present. In the evening, after a full day when our clients are reflecting on times that they felt mindful or present, they are surprised to find that it was much of the day! What an incredible thing to be fully present and in our bodies when we used to spend so much time in our heads! 

Do not take my word for it– go out and spend time in the garden, go for a hike, or lie in the grass at a local park. Feel the effects for yourself. And if you are looking for help, come join us on a journey toward healing and self-discovery. The Utah wilderness is waiting and ready to divulge its secrets for anyone willing to listen.