Contemplation of nature is akin to a meditative practice done in association with the natural environment. It involves three steps: soft gaze, disinterestedness and sympathetic attention.
Soft gaze: One chooses a view to observe; this could be a landscape, water body, agricultural field, garden or a hedge. If there is no access to outdoor nature, one can choose to contemplate on a potted plant, flowers/leaves/stone/ sea shells etc. indoors. Gently focus attention on the view or the object. The eyes can blink as naturally as they do. If one is tired or feels better by closing the eyes briefly, there is no problem. Often thoughts start to rush in as soon as the eyes are closed. If that happens, eyes should be opened as one reminds oneself about contemplating nature. Open eyes help because nature is a multi-sensuous engagement (sight, hear, smell etc.). This is a support even though we are not consciously engaging the senses.
Disinterestedness is about distance from the subject’s own needs, desires, concerns and outcomes in the process of contemplation. To put it more classically, this element in the practice is ‘transcendental’. How it is practiced is that though we are fully aware of our presence and that of the view or the object yet one is not exercising the mind to find out any details about the view or the object.
Sympathetic attention comes from the well-developed field of love and kindness meditation. This practice, in which one directs compassion and wishes for well-being toward real or imagined others, is designed to create changes in emotion, motivation, and behavior in order to promote positive feelings and kindness towards the self and others. What is required is to just gently remind oneself once that without the elements of nature survival would be impossible and continue, remaining disinterested and maintaining a steady soft gaze.
Practice time: The recommended duration is about 30 minutes. Scientific research on the mind-body connection has pointed out that after about 22 minutes of a restful mind, a much deeper physiological relaxation starts to take place. This finding has ushered a relaxation revolution and given rise to several techniques such as Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR).