Studies have shown that practicing mindfulness can reduce the negative effects of stress and anxiety, and can improve psychological well-being and overall mental well-being. At Chalet Floralie we love allowing our guests to fully relax and be at one with nature, all the while being pampered and treaty like royalty for one wonderful holiday. Read on to discover mindfulness techniques and meditation exercises to help you make the most of your time in the mountains and find serenity in the Three Valleys.
How to meditate in the mountains
The connection between mountains and the Buddhist practice of meditation may not seem immediately apparent but is in fact close, largely due to Tibetan Buddhism and its roots in the Himalayas. It could be said that Tibetan Buddhism is inseparable from the Himalayan peaks that serve as worshippers’ guardian deities, and Tibetan Buddhism’s prominence in the West is due in part to the popularity of the Dalai Lama, the top monk and Tibet’s head of state until the Chinese began their occupation of the kingdom in 1959.
The Dalai Lama now lives in exile in northwestern India on the lower slopes of the Himalayas. Whether Buddhist or not, everyone can benefit from a session of meditation, which will feel all the more powerful if you try it in a mountain setting, allowing you to really connect with the landscape around you.
Regular meditation leads to a range of psychological and physiological health benefits and can help to reduce anxiety and stress, lower blood pressure, strengthen the immune system and improve concentration among many more.
Notice the play of the light and shade on the landscape, as clouds move across the sky. Watch the clouds moving and changing shape. Compare the colours and textures of the different features that make up the mountain landscape – the patches of forest, snow, heath and bare rock. Examine the smaller details around you: the mosses, lichens, tree bark and stones.
Noises can sound more distant in the mountains. Can you hear the wind? Listen for the sound of the trees rustling in a breeze, the cries of birds of prey, noises from people far below you. What sound are your feet making underfoot?
Mountain air usually smells fresh and clean. Can you pick out any other smells, such as wildflowers, tree sap or moist earth?
As you walk, feel the difference between the surfaces you are walking on – hard rock, soft patches of snow and so on. Use your fingers to feel to explore the textures around you – cool, hard rocks, rough or smooth tree bark, soft or spiky grasses or snow.
Take a few deep breaths through your mouth to taste the air. Can you taste anything? If you want, take out any snacks you might have and eat them mindfully, really tasting the nuances of the food. Take each element separately, and really experience the flavours.
Mountain Mindfulness Exercise One. Use Your Senses
Mountains are the essence of permanence and continuity and can make us feel very grounded and part of the bigger picture. Find a patch of bare rock and sit on it, if possible, arranging yourself in a comfortable, relaxed position. If it isn’t too cold, place the palms of your hands directly on the rock. Aim to spend about 10 minutes on this exercise.
1. First look closely at the rock – is it jagged or smooth, what colours can you see in it, are there patches or flecks of different minerals?
2. Feel the temperature of the rock against your skin. Does it feel very cold or has it been warmed by the sun?
3. Concentrate on the texture. Draw your hand or foot over the surface. Does it feel hard, porous, gravelly, rough or smooth? Are there crystals poking above the surface or has it been weathered smooth?
4. Think about the depth of the rock beneath you. Think about the continuity of rock reaching down and down to the earth’s crust far below, one continuous massif of rock anchored to the earth.
5. See yourself perched on the mountain, a tiny figure on an enormous chunk of rock in a vast landscape.
Mountain Mindfulness Exercise Two. Notice your surroundings
This exercise is about looking down at the world from a height. The feeling of detachment from society this gives, from being outside but looking in, helps engender a sense of perspective and can make life’s problems seem less significant. Choose a high spot with an extensive view and make yourself comfortable. You can use a pair of binoculars for this exercise if you like.
1. First take in the general scene. What can you see? Are there areas of habitation, towns or villages maybe, or individual houses? Are there areas of forest or agriculture, bodies of water such as rivers or lakes? Or are there just vast plains of white, shimmering snow?
2. Look more closely at the different colours of these different features. What pattern do they make – geometric shapes, a rough patchwork, or uneven sprawling areas? Is there a repeating pattern?
3. What can you see moving below you? Depending on the landscape, there might be birds or animals, either wild or domestic. You might see the wind blowing the trees or human activities such as vehicles moving or people skiing. If you would like some help on what to look out for, take a look at our Alpine wildlife blog post.
4. Can you see any individual people or animals in the landscape? Take the time to look closely. If you spot any, can you gauge their activities?
5. Spend 10 minutes really focusing on the scene below you, clearing your mind of all other thoughts as you notice all the details in the landscape.