Mindfulness Practice: At Our National Parks and In Life

A small group of hikers ascend Bright Angel trail with a vast and colorful canyon as their backdrop. NPS Photo/M. Quinn
Hiking, whether up or downhill, at the Grand Canyon provides an awesome training ground for a mindfulness practice.

NPS/M. Quinn

A small collection of pink flowers, dandelion fluff, and grasses delicately rise up with awe from the earth. NPS Photo/A. Rehkopf
The Grand Canyon is alive with color, diversity, and intricate detail. Pause and notice the close-up views of what’s right beneath your feet.

NPS/A. Rehkopf

Have you ever had the experience where you were driving in your car, going from point A to point B, and the next thing you know, you find yourself arriving at point B…only, you can’t remember how you got there? You know you arrived safely, but you can’t recall any part of the drive itself.

Or, perhaps you’ve found yourself out hiking on a trail, where you’re feeling mentally done with the trail—you’re so over it. The trail feels like an endless stretch before you, and you’re wanting it to be over—NOW…5 MILES AGO…LAST WEEK!

Can you relate to either of these situations?
In the first scenario, there’s a sense of being on autopilot for our lives. We often find it difficult to be fully present in life, as it is happening.

In the second scenario, it’s like we want access to a “fast forward” button, so we don’t have to experience any unpleasantness or discomfort along the way.

On some level, we may be able to relate to both scenarios.
A park ranger leads a group of visitors in a seated mindfulness practice amidst some trees in the inner canyon. NPS Photo/K. Pitts
A park ranger leads visitors in a Mindfulness practice at Indian Garden within the Inner Canyon. Enjoy a guided mindfulness practice with a park ranger, or connect with your own self-guided mindfulness practice.

NPS Photo/K. Pitts

Our national parks provide us with an incredible opportunity to reconnect with a slowed, more intentional pace. However, if we’re used to a faster pace, our minds full, how do we switch off our brain’s autopilot function, to engage with, and be fully present, in this moment? Furthermore, how can we find acceptance, even a sense of peace, for wherever we’re at on our path?

Naturally, being here at the Grand Canyon, and across our national parks, we talk mostly of the outer landscape, but what consideration and care do we afford to our inner landscape?

Here’s where a mindfulness practice has a lot to offer us.

According to Jon Kabat-Zinn, “Mindfulness means paying attention in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally.” The key part of his statement, along with a lot of practice, is its non-judgmental component.

Let’s use the following situation, and mental thought patterns, to represent how a mindfulness practice can help us connect with increased presence and greater compassion for our inner lives—whether we’re out on a trail at the Grand Canyon (or elsewhere), and as a practice for life.

The situation: Hiking uphill, no shade, hot temperatures—essentially, discomfort.

Mental thoughts: Your mind begins its restless pursuit to the tune of, “Get me out of here” or “I’m so ready to be done with this hike.”

Mindfulness practice:

  1. Normalize the emotions you’re facing; be gentle with yourself when life feels hard.

  2. Remember that your emotions are temporary.

  3. What are you ready to release, or let go of, in this moment?

  4. Pause, connect with your breath, tune into one of your 5 senses.

  5. Is there something you feel grateful for in this moment?

Incorporating a mindfulness practice, whether on a trail, a drive, or on your own personal ride through life, can help us to reconnect with greater presence and more compassion, for both our inner experience of life as well as our outer experience of the world.

Article Written By: Alicia Brill

Early morning sunrise views from South Kaibab trail in March 2021. Photo courtesy of A. Brill
The Grand Canyon offers many places to enjoy the magnificent views of this colorful, far-reaching canyon. Take a mindful moment to breathe, reflect, and appreciate.

Photo courtesy of A. Brill

Grand Canyon National Park

Last updated: July 28, 2021