This summer, unplug with contemplative meditations in the gardens. Meditation can help you slow down, quiet your mind, and tune in to the natural systems surrounding you, but it can be difficult to start a meditation practice! That’s where Julia Byrem comes in with our Moving Meditation series, where she will lead meditations through Mt. Cuba Center’s gardens on Sundays (Section A) and Thursdays (Section B) starting on June 16th at $10 per session. Instead of starting out with a seated meditation, Moving Meditation makes it easy to slip into a connected, contemplative state because your body remains active. Julia answered some questions that meditation first-timers may have, here:
What’s the importance of unplugging and meditating?
There’s a twofold answer. The first one is that we are too plugged-in in this culture. One of the values of detaching from external or electronic devices and all of the media and all of that hyperstimulation is to quiet the nervous system, if nothing else. There’s physiological and mental effects that are really beneficial. The second answer is more of a meta level kind of thing. When we connect into nature, we are achieving a different level of experience. This is an embodied experience that plunges us into a semantic relationship with the world. It’s especially helpful when doing this with a group, in silence, outside of language and expectation while allowing sensory reception to take over. It all allows us to connect to natural rhythms—which is where we want to be anyway since we’re living systems. It’s a really, really cool thing. It goes beyond language, really.
It’s beyond relaxing, it’s about reconnecting with yourself and with other people and quieting the mind. And so when we are accessing those physiological effects of reducing stress response and accessing the parasympathetic nervous system, which is the rest-and-digest nervous system, in a group makes it easier. There’s a natural slide into that receptivity.
For people who have never done this before, who have an idea of what they think meditation is, do you have any words to offer to challenge that stereotype?
We’re not going to be sitting down and staring straight ahead for an hour, there’s going to be movement. This is what’s cool about doing this at Mt. Cuba Center. There are lots of things out in the gardens, lots of topics. I want to structure these sessions so that there will be an opening, centering exercise to root us down. The moss garden inspired me to do a walk on smallness. We’re going to walk and allow that idea to blossom. It’s moving, too, for those of us.
All right, this is a metaphor: You’re going 65 miles an hour in the car and you slam on the brakes with no seat belts, what happens? Not a good thing. You have to do is slowly pump the brakes to do a safe stop. This moving meditation in nature is so powerful because it’s really, really hard for most of us to unplug because our systems are so jacked up. You’re either falling asleep or your systems are so agitated by the stillness and quiet during a true sit that you feel your head is going to pop off your shoulders. With this there’s going to be contemplation and true focus, but because there’s movement you can slide right in.
What makes a garden a good place to practice meditation?
One of the things I’m so excited about with Mt. Cuba Center is that these are native gardens. We’re really rooting in to the land. While it is developed and cultivated, there is an aspect out there making it very easy for us to connect to the systems. I just want people to know that this is going to be super interesting and beneficial on a lot of levels.
To register for any of the Sunday morning Moving Meditation walks in Session A, or to sign up for the whole series, click here. To register for the Thursday evening Moving Meditation Walks, or Section B, click here.