After the winding trip to Majkhali, we made our way to the center for the contemplation of nature, a secluded cluster of buildings built on a mountain slope. We met Ajay ji, who founded the center. After eating breakfast, graciously prepared by Meera ji (Ajay ji’s sister) we climbed the stairs to the yoga room and were greeted with a view of the snow-capped Himalayas, towering in the distance.
With this imposing backdrop, we learned about varying topics built around Ajay ji’s extensive experience in the field of agriculture, conservation and fair trade. He talked about the problems of industrial farming, for example the emphasis on quantity of production over nutritional value. He talked about the struggles of cotton farmers in India and how fair trade and consumer awareness can be used to give farmers a living wage.
Our classroom was not limited to the center. We hiked as a group to a mandir (temple), dedicated to a livestock-protecting deity, located on the top of a grassy hill. Before we left Ajay ji told us “even though this hike should take around 45 minutes, we’ll take around 2 hours.” With my perpetually goal-oriented mindset, this was baffling, but soon I realised that there was no real rush. The important thing was to take it slow, observe and take the time to discuss and learn from everything around us. Ajay ji emphasised a deep appreciation for one’s environment. As part of this he introduced us to the meditative practice of contemplating nature, in which one sits in a comfortable position observing nature yet attempting to be as indifferent as possible towards it for at least 30 minutes. This type of mindfulness, which isn’t built on any religious tradition, is simple and easy to perform. As opposed to, for example, Buddhist meditation, it does not require one to sit with a straight back or focus on ones breath. Contemplation of nature focuses on mindfulness above all and tries to make it as easy and accessible as possible. Ajay ji explained that as humans we evolved to have an affinity towards nature, which makes it a more “natural” practice compared to other types of mindfulness. Ajay ji suggested that we further expand our understanding of mindfulness through the books “flow” by American psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi and the work of Dutch psychologist Nico Frijda. I hope to further explore mindfulness and nature’s contemplation through these suggestions.