What Nature Can Teach Us About Non-striving

Shannon Gruno is a social worker with over 20 years of experience and a passion for wellness, mindfulness and holistic living. She is an LBSW with an MA in Spirituality, Culture and Health. She is certified in Mindful Movement, Mindful Techniques to Enhance Living, Integrative Mental Health, and as a Nature Therapy Guide. You can visit her website at ForestTrailWellness.com. The following is an excerpt from her final project.

I led a Nature Therapy Walk focusing on the mindfulness attitude of non-striving, or being yourself in the present without trying to change.  I had three eager participants for the 35-minute, 1.38 mile walk on a paved trail through woods and by a small inland lake, preceded by a 5-minute introduction and followed by 10 minutes to debrief. The weather was mostly cloudy, breezy, and 16°F. Recently, there had been damaging wind storms, and then more than a foot of snow.

There were two planned stops with activity, plus one initiated by a participant. The first planned stop was to look at a small tree that had a lot of snow fallen on top and still stood tall. It was doing what it does even with something new going on and a weight on it. We talked about feeling weighed down and still being present and being and doing without trying to change the situation.
The second planned stop was at a fallen tree. A storm knocked it down, and yet it was still there. We discussed what it may look like in the spring and what new life may be formed from it. We also discussed how, in its new state, it could still be and have purpose, without changing — and may be providing a home to rabbits now.

We talked about how we can be like the trees, how to come to nature to gain inspiration on this mindfulness attitude. A participant pointed out there was a bush that still had so many green leaves, which was such a contrast to all of the brown and white. It just kept being even after all of the storms and cold. There was also another discussion when passing a marsh with cattails. Everyone commented on how marshes just do what they do, providing home to snakes, frogs and lizards by just being themselves and not trying to change.

Participant Feedback:

  • Today I saw snow, trees (standing and fallen), frozen lake, cat tails, dead leaves on trees.
  • Today I saw life in many different forms, even in the winter!
  • I experienced nature and how much it has to offer.
  • I liked the part about how if a tree falls down, it’s still useful.
  • I learned non-striving is one of the principles of mindfulness: be who you are.
  • I learned it’s okay just to be.
  • Thank you! I needed this today!

As the walk went on, each participant commented on more examples of non-striving, asked questions about the attitude and though we were all cold, were smiling. Overall, I really enjoyed the experience and look forward to honing this skill and doing many more walks.

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