Community| 5 min read

On Nature & Mindfulness with Carolyn Anne Budgell

Our Earth Month meditation guide discusses the connection between nature and our mental wellbeing.

When we asked around our community for a recommendation for a mindfulness instructor to partner with, every person came back with the same name: Carolyn Anne Budgell.

Carolyn is a local (to us!) Vancouver meditation, yoga, and breath guide with a particularly warm and approachable style and a love for the outdoors. We knew Carolyn would be the perfect partner for tentree’s “Tune in to Nature” campaign for Earth Month, and we were right. Her audio recordings for the campaign Resting in Nature, Breathing in Nature, Awareness in Nature are magic.


Q: What inspired your career in mindfulness and meditation?

This isn’t exactly a fairytale story! I had already been teaching yoga for a few years when I embarked upon my own meditation journey. It was so challenging to sit with my own thoughts and emotions – I used to sweat profusely, just while sitting in meditation because so much emotional discomfort would arise! Looking back now, it’s strange that I continued with it because it really was difficult. But some part of me knew that there was healing in that discomfort. Deep down, my intuition told me that I needed to face some of those aspects of myself (the anger and the blame)  if I ever wanted to soften them. I didn’t start my meditation journey necessarily because I was looking for peace or inner calm. It was more so because I needed to look at and better understand the strong inner narratives I had been fighting with for decades. With much time, patience, breath, therapy and meditation, the emotional habits started to shift. The shifts had less to do with attaining inner peace and more about my curiosity to finally be present with every part of myself. 


nature and mental health

Q: What does spending time in nature do for you personally?

When I am in nature, I remember that there is a force much greater than me, that I am also intrinsically a part of and always connected to. Nature not only grounds and revitalizes me, it is also a living example of impermanence. The seasons, the elements, all of nature exudes constant change and constant cycles. And nature does it without questioning itself! Nature simply IS – dramatic and chaotic as well as peaceful and quiet – and none of it is permanent. When I take time outside (even just a few deep breaths looking up at the sky), I remember that things will shift and work out somehow. Just as things sort themselves out in nature.


Q: What have you observed about the relationship between nature and our mental health?

When people are in nature, they tend to automatically slow down. Being in nature opens up people’s senses and when our senses are heightened, our perspective widens as well. We breathe more deeply. We can scan and take everything in with a clearer outlook, which regulates the nervous system and benefits our mental health. Being in nature  isn’t always possible for everyone, depending upon where we live or the realities of needing to work full-time jobs and take care of family. So even just imagining that we are in nature or taking a slow walk somewhere for 5 or 10 minutes a day can really invoke feelings and sensations similar to being in nature. When we give ourselves opportunities to envision nature or to breathe more deeply, our stress levels and cortisol levels come down, and our mental health is cared for. The effects aren’t always noticed immediately but in time, a bit of nature time or nature imagining every single day increases mental and physical health. Our systems adapt to what they are fed and nature is a medicine that leads to more slowness, more breath and a ‘big picture’ perspective. 


Q: What gives you hope for the future regarding the state of nature and our place in it?

Two things give me hope about nature and how humans relate to her. 

Firstly, there’s a heightened awareness about not only needing to protect the environment but also to reposition humans within nature’s sphere, rather than above it, and this view is growing quickly across the planet – thanks to social media or technology as a whole. Social media can feel like a real burden, and it certainly does cause harm if it’s used and abused in ways that are not mindful and don’t teach us anything. But on the flip side, social media is a wonderful tool because it has opened up people’s eyes to just how important conservation is. Through it, we can uplift one another and support organizations that aim to protect our planet. Our awareness is key. This does include awareness of suffering, strain, overuse, misuse, depletion, etc. But coming to this kind of realization is pivotal in order for change to occur.

The other thing that provides me hope is my child, my 7 year old daughter Hana, and all the children; our future generation. I know that our children will be better stewards of the land than we have been because there’s no other option. I’m so sorry to leave them with the state of the world that we have created. It’s a downer. But sometimes we have to reach the bottom and become wide awake to the problems in order to reach new levels of hope and possibility. People are returning to nature and to new solutions because many other avenues have been exhausted (and because disconnection from nature is so harmful to health). I know that our children will reinvent the wheel. They will be able to create so many more answers and solutions than we could have imagined. I know that there’s a lot of hope in our children.



Carolyn Anne Budgell

Q: What do you wish people knew about a mindfulness practice?

I wish people knew that a mindfulness practice can be a creative endeavor. Meditation can look like many different things: a jog in the forest, walking your dog around the neighborhood, drinking your morning tea, the way we communicate with our children or with our co-workers. There’s this misconception that a mindfulness or a meditation practice must be done seated in stillness for 30 minutes a day, blocking out all noises, stopping all of our thoughts. This just is not true and it’s not really realistic for most of us in this day and age. We need to make our practices work for us, for the phase that we’re in in life or for the time that we have available. A mindful pause can be just that – it can be quick. My favourite ways to practice include: a few deep breaths while driving to pick up the groceries or pick up my child from school, a few restorative yoga stretches at the end of the day in bed, giving myself 5 minutes to walk wherever I’m headed more slowly and look up at the sky. I believe that mindfulness can be incorporated into all moments and it ought to be, because this is where it counts.

People won’t remember us for our daily seated meditation practice, but for our patience, our listening ear and our ability to respond empathetically. Mindfulness is about how we show up in daily life with others and towards ourselves. 


Tune in to nature now:

Nature Meditations by Carolyn

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