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Remember the last time you had a really spiritual experience in nature? Perhaps you were hiking to the top of a mountain or kayaking along the glass-like surface of a lake, just barely after sunrise, and an expansive feeling came over you. Suddenly, you felt connected to something much bigger and older than yourself, perhaps even the essence of life itself. A calm peace came over you and you knew that everything was as it should be.

You often wish you can get back that feeling and linger for a little while longer.

Spending time in nature can be an emotionally and spiritually healing experience. It can allow you to rejuvenate and re-align yourself to what really matters in life. But it’s not always possible to have a spiritual experience if the conditions aren’t right. In fact, it can feel a bit frustrating when you’ve trekked to the end of the trail in a beautiful and remote location and all you can think about is the kink in your shoulder or all the emails that are going to be waiting for you upon your return home.

If you want your time in the wild to be a more spiritually rewarding experience, there are three things you must do in order to create the conditions to make it possible.

1. Set an Intention.

Intentions are powerful forces for the psyche. Setting an intention is like putting out a message into the Universe announcing your arrival at a certain point in time and space, instead of following the whims of randomness.

Setting an intention before you go out into wilderness can enable you to connect deeper to your soul, notice signs from nature, and expand your awareness. Some examples of intentions are, “I intend to relax fully and not dwell on my usual issues during the next hour.” or “I intend to open up to any messages, omens and signs from nature to answer a question that’s been on my mind for a while.”

Saying your intention out loud makes it all the more powerful.

2. Be Silent.

It’s difficult to enter into a state of peace and receptivity to a spiritual experience when you and your trekking buddy are busy debating about current events or complaining about work.

Whether you’re hiking alone or with someone, agree to do most of your hike or adventure in relative silence. Silence allows you to be mindful and present in a way that can’t happen when you’re chattering away.

It may feel awkward at first if you’re with someone, but the more you do it, the easier it will be. You’ll find that spending time in nature becomes mentally and spiritually refreshing as well as physically rewarding.

3. Be Present.

You’ve set an intention and you’re spending time enjoying your adventure in silence, but there’s just one small problem. You can’t seem to shut off your “monkey mind”. You’re worried, fretting, and your mind is going around in circles.

How can you be more present to what’s around you in order to open up to a more uplifting experience?

One powerful technique to becoming fully present in the moment is to focus your attention on two sensory inputs at the same time. Notice what you’re hearing at the same time that you focus on a tree or cloud in front of you. Or breathe deeply and notice how it smells at the same time as you’re touching something and discovering its texture. Keep your concentration on these two sensory inputs for as long as possible. You’ll find that you instantly get very present and all other thoughts stop. You can practice this over and over until you find your mind settling down and becoming more in tune with your surroundings.

Another way to get more grounded in the moment, especially if you’re debating something or worrying about something, is to tell yourself that you’ll set aside 15 minutes after your outdoor adventure to think about this topic. Allow yourself to relax into the idea that you’re okay right now and that you deserve a rest away from stressful thoughts.

I’ve heard so many people tell me they had moments of intense clarity and joy because of contemplative time they spent in nature. It’s hard to have these kinds of insights in our normally busy, distracted lives. We could go years working jobs we tolerate, staying in relationships that are destroying our soul, and we don’t even know how bad it is until we have a spiritual experience in the wild and it all hits us: We’ve been asleep in our life and have missed out on so much that’s possible, beautiful and liberating.

Margaret Emerson

Margaret Emerson

Margaret is a freelance writer and graphic designer. She holds a master's degree in Ecopsychology and is the author of Contemplative Hiking Along the Colorado Front Range, a unique hiking guide that offers reflection exercises designed to connect the reader to the natural environment and their inner experience.