The heat and humidity are now in full force but you want to continue using your journal (you did start one last month, didn't you?). August is a great time to get out and practice your observation skills. Just maybe not in the heat of the day. I am sure that many of us think that observing just entails going out and looking around. I know that is what I used to think. But there is more to observing nature than meets the eye. (Pun intended) This month try practicing your "intentional curiosity".
Intentional curiosity means practicing long observations, cultivating your wonder, embracing the mysterious and slowing down. Take the time to ask questions, search for patterns and ponder possible answers to those questions. But how do you do all of that?
Here are 3 prompts, based on John Muir Laws' method for observing, to keep in mind when out journaling:
- "I Notice": Start by saying out loud (or to yourself) every detail you can observe. Write it down or sketch it. This will help you to start recognizing patterns and other things that one might normally miss.
- "I Wonder": Ask questions about what you are experiencing. Say them out loud and/or write them down. Asking questions means that observations shift out of short-term memory and become embedded in long-term memory. Also, a funny thing happens the more you wonder (the verb). You will feel more wonder (the noun).
- "It Reminds Me Of…" Weave in any kind of association that comes to mind without filtering or judging these connections. Reflecting on these connections will start to build a deeper type of wisdom about the world around you
Practicing this three prompts will help you to slow down and look more closely.
Scientific studies now show there are health benefits to practicing a more mindful approach and to spending time in nature. Researchers from Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and the Brigham and Women's Hospital, found that women who live amongst plant life and spend time in nature have a 13 percent lower rate of cancer deaths and a 34 percent lower rate of respiratory-related deaths.
The study, which used data from 108,630 women across the United States from 2000 to 2008, also found that mental health improved remarkably for women immersed in nature. While men were not included in this study, there is reason to believe they too would see health benefits to spending time in nature.
August is a great month to observe in the early morning hours or after sunset. The benefits are twofold; you are not in the heat of the day and you get to see things like increased animal activity during those times of day. Try these three prompts and discover what you notice.
Photo: From a journal of Lewis & Clark Expedition