The Benefits of Being Quiet in Nature

Strolling through the woods, listening to the leaves rustle in the wind, the sound of our feet stepping on the earth … pausing to observe a bird on a branch, touch the bark of a tree, smell the scent of a flower, or taste the sweetness of a berry growing in the wild.

Most of us have had experiences like these. We know that nature is a balm, a place of peace that soothes the soul. The silence we experience there is unlike the silence we experience anywhere else. It’s silence in its purest form, the kind that quiets the mind, calms the body, and aligns the spirit with something greater than itself.

Ayurvedic teachings are well aware of nature’s power, and the power of nature’s silence. “There’s an intrinsic understanding in Ayurveda that the entire universe, including human beings, is made of the five elements—space, air/wind, fire, water, and earth,” says Erin Casperson, Dean of the Kripalu School of Ayurveda. “When we’re communing with nature, we can naturally experience slowness, stillness, and quiet. Nature isn’t in a hurry. Spending time in our habitat called Planet Earth and observing our surroundings is great medicine for the mind, body, and senses.”

“Nature calls me into a deeper place, beyond words and language,” says Jess Frey, transformational coach, Kripalu faculty member, and a graduate of Kripalu’s 1000-Hour Yoga Teacher Training. “The great outdoors is an intimate space where no words are needed.”

A Place and Space for Silence

"When we’re able to drop into nature’s silence, we can hear and know ourselves more clearly," says Micah Mortali, Director of Outdoor Education and Prorgramming at Kripalu, Founder of the Kripalu School of Mindful Outdoor Leadership, and author of Rewilding: Meditations, Practices and Skills for Awakening in Nature. “We receive information and guidance from the earth. We can feel who we are and make choices in greater alignment with that truth. Nature provides us with the time and space to practice being in the present moment, rather than doing all of the things that eat up so much time.” 

Chained to offices and wedded to technology that bombards us nonstop with visual and auditory stimuli, humans are sadly becoming more and more of an indoor species. Just as we need to make time for exercise in our sedentary lives, many of us also need to make time to get outdoors and simply practice being quiet.

Micah and Jess offer these tips for experiencing the benefits of silence in the natural world:

  • Sit outside and simply observe the movement around you. Become as still as you can. Do this for at least 15 minutes, then notice how you feel.
  • Focus on the sound of wind in the trees, of water in a stream, of waves crashing in the ocean, of the language of birds in the trees. Allow your eyes to close and let your attention be absorbed by these sounds.
  • Gaze into a small fire and allow the dancing flames and smoldering embers to hold your attention. Smell the smoke and watch as it’s carried away on the air.   
  • Lie in the grass and look up—at the clouds in the sky, the sun setting on the horizon, or the stars glowing in the darkness. Or close your eyes and focus on feeling the presence and support of the earth beneath you.

Being One with Nature

Some of us may resist dropping into nature’s silence—not just because we don't have the time, but also because we’d rather not be alone with ourselves. “We carry around a lot of stuff inside—every experience we’ve ever had is stored in our bodies,” Jess says. “So when we take the time to slow down, pause, and be silent, what often emerges is everything life has been distracting us from or all the things we were not aware of before.” And that can be uncomfortable.

When we do allow ourselves to swim in nature’s silence, though, our incessant, story-spinning minds—busy ruminating over regrets from the past, anxieties about the present, and fears of the future—have the chance to stop spinning at breakneck speed. “As I step more into the natural world, my lens of life widens,” Jess says. “Beauty, wonder, awe, and magnificence capture me. I’m reminded of the seasons and cycles of life, and that seems to wash away the worries the mind creates. The noise of the crazy world fades and a deeper part of me remembers it’s all okay.”

Though we tend to think of nature as something separate from ourselves, in truth, we are nature. “We belong to the earth, we’re from the earth, and we’re connected to every living being on this earth, whether we’re in the middle of the city or in the middle of a forest,” Jess says. “No matter where we live, there’s always access to nature—the wind, the rain, the sun, the earth, the sky. The question for each of us is how we can find regular mini-moments to remember this and connect.”

Browse nature and outdoor programs at Kripalu.