5 Earth-based spiritual practices for the urban dweller

Love nature, but live in the big city? Consider this your guide to the rejuvenating spiritual exercises that will help you reconnect to the natural world
By Sarah Chandler  Published on 02/19/2018 at 11:00 AM EDT

Your officemate sneaks in a yoga class at lunch. Your sister has that meditation app. Your college best friend swears by Tai Chi for finding inner balance. But even though you’re living the city life, you get your spiritual fix only in natural settings. You swoon at sunsets and hike the extra mile for the perfect mountain top views. You already know that spending time surrounded by nature brings you calm. Instead of waiting for your next trip, what if you could “press pause” on your busy day to reconnect with nature and find a moment of inner peace?

Here are five simple earth-based spiritual practices you can try today, no matter where you live.

  1. Rooftop or Sidewalk Cloud Gazing
    The sky is always with us, we just need to take a moment to notice.
    Find a comfortable position and location to sit or stand in one place for five minutes. Look for cloud formations. Count the clouds, name the shapes, and watch them move with the wind. Imagine the earth from the cloud’s perspective. Picture your city from the sky. Slowly zoom in on the spot where you are. Close your eyes and take a few snapshots in your mind of these pictures.
  2. Breathe with a Tree
    Intentional breathing with the trees that give us clean air.
    Every breath we take relies on oxygen produced by growing plants, primarily trees; each tree produces nearly 260 pounds of oxygen per year. Select a tree you walk by every day or most days. (You may wish to use an online guide to figure out what species it is: This site tells you about NYC trees, this one for Los Angeles, this one has Chicago’s top ten). Visit the same tree with some regularity, such as every day for a week, or once a week for a year. Notice the following about your tree: height, bark, branch length, branch direction, buds, leaves, flowers, fruit. How is the tree growing with the makeup of the sidewalk or other areas around it? Stand under or near the tree, set a timer and breathe for 60 seconds. You can do this exercise any time of year, though it may seem most will be especially visually poignant in spring or autumn.
  3. Celestial iCal Reminders
    The bright light in your hand (that’s your phone!) can remind you of the bright lights in the sky.
    The sun and moon are moving around us every day. Breaking for a short moment to recognize the passage of time brings balance and awareness.
    Sun: Set a timer on your phone to beep a few minutes before sunset. (This website will import sunrise and/or sunset times into your phone’s calendar). Use it as an excuse to get outside, even for a three-minute break. Too cloudy? Watch a video of a sunset from wherever you are.
    Moon: Track the moon cycles and other planetary events. The new moon is a good time of the month to start or restart projects. As you approach the time of the new moon, consider: where do I need to mark newness in my life? The full moon is a time of recognizing balance in your life. As you arrive at the day of the full moon, consider: what do I need to let go of in order to have more balance?
  4. Fire Ceremony with a Candle
    The natural light of the orange flame is all you need.
    Sit facing a lit candle of any size. As you hold your palms toward the fire, release to the fire anything that no longer serves you. Release grief, release anger, release fear. Visualize it leaving your body and going into the fire. Then, wave your hands three times toward your body, feeling the warmth of the fire, seeing how the presence of fire changes both light and darkness.
  5. Mindful Snacking
    Connecting to the source of our food keeps us aligned with the earth.
    Gather two or more snacks that are whole foods, meaning foods that are unprocessed and unrefined, or processed and refined as little as possible, before being consumed (for example, a whole apple, carrot, blueberry etc.). Arrange them on a plate or napkin in bite-sized pieces. Pick up the first one you would like to eat; as you hold it, imagine what it looked like while it was still growing. (It’s not cheating to Google it before the exercise!) Imagine the process from the tree or plant to a bucket or bin, then getting washed, then going on a truck, then sitting in a store room, then going in a package, then the store, then your home. Carefully place the first bite in your mouth. Repeat with each snack item.

Nature is all around us, even in the big city; sometimes all it takes is a few minutes of mindfulness to reconnect with – and be rejuvenated by – the natural world around us.

Once you’ve tried some of the above, share how they’ve made you feel. And share your favorites in the comments! And let us know if you have any other favorite ways to connect with nature…



Sarah Chandler is a Brooklyn-based educator, artist, activist, and poet. She holds an MA in Jewish Education and an MA in Hebrew Bible from the Jewish Theological Seminary, and a certificate in Non-Profit Management and Jewish Communal Leadership from Columbia University. She teaches, writes, and consults on a national level on issues related to Judaism, earth-based spiritual practice, the environment, mindfulness, food values, and farming. Currently, Sarah studies Saphire® Practice dream work with the School of Images and is a shamanic healer apprentice at The Wisdom School of S.O.P.H.I.A. As a Kohenet (Hebrew priestess), she officiates weddings, baby namings, B-mitzvah, and other rituals for those seeking to infuse nature spirituality into their life transitions.

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