Hiking on a brisk winter morning in the American southwest desert. Topping a ridge we see a line of low trees about half mile away – we investigate. We first hear a gurgle of water and as we near a small seasonal flow, then see the gently flowing water, at times spilling through a riffle of stones, at other times forming small eddies with golden leaves floating in gentle circles, sometimes moving slightly and losing a few leaves downstream while capturing others in its new spiraling location. Dappled light, water gurgling over a lichen and moss covered log, the smell of recently dry vegetation, now musty with the new moisture. A large flat igneous rock just above the stream, still cold from the recent near freezing dawn, offers a fine venue for immersing oneself in these wonders.
Opportunities like this for meditation in a perfect venue happen often during our primary outdoor activities of hiking and biking. In our packs or panniers, we each usually carried a small piece of foam gardening mat from which, with the addition of a few rocks or perhaps a small dead log for support, we fashion a spot to sit and practice as Ram Dass suggests “Be Here Now.”
Outdoor meditation comes with plenty of challenges such as heat, cold, wind, rain, insects that we can’t control, why not control those factors that we can (don’t set up on an ant nest).
Given a choice, we like to sit on a Zafu (cushion) with a heel cutout in the Burmese position, you know, the position with one heel drawn up under the groin and the other heel drawn up to the first. We find it very stable and easy to maintain an erect posture. The two main issues outdoors are temperature of the ground surface and the surface texture. In the example above, the rocks were probably about 40 degrees F and the volcanic surface was, though reasonably flat, had a very sharp texture but, the good news, was dry.