The Awake in the Wild Experience (AWE) is a mindfulness-in-nature art project that brings participants into intimate connection with the natural world through nature-inspired contemplations both in a landscaped garden designed to support the practices, and in neighborhood parks and green spaces. Participants engage all senses with nature in exercises such as mindfully exploring a tree, silently contemplating the sounds of a waterfall, or absorbing ourselves in the dynamic, bustling world of a small patch of the landscape for five minutes.
The practices can be done online and adapted for indoors where they can be equally transformational. One woman, doing one of the exercises with a houseplant in a New York City loft, said during the practice she felt a new sense of being part of an interconnected ecosystem, to the degree she felt a new compassion for an insect she had considered a pest earlier that day. The practices inspire a renewed vitally in our connection with the natural world, a rekindled love and compassion for it, and can excite a commitment to care for nature more deeply.
AWE is inspired by the book Awake in the Wild by mindfulness teacher Mark Coleman, who will be present to lead some of the mindfulness in nature practices. AWE can be presented as workshops and also as a three to five week collaborative community event. AWE is currently in development for Los Angeles and New York City and will be tailored for the local environment in each location.
For the AWE installation, participants walk into a fully landscaped garden , indoors or outside, designed by a landscape architect. It's a quieter, more framed environment which provides a more focused setting to connect with nature and where the meditations, led in person or by recorded audio, can help inspire more ease and confidence in the natural world. The garden can be temporary or permanent.
AWE goes to neighborhoods and communities in the city as part of the program. For the first time in history, more people live in cities than in the countryside. AWE participants experience nature in their neighborhoods with new eyes --- connecting with the flora and fauna that they might often hurry by. Exercises such as silently touching tall grasses in a neighborhood park, noticing the scent of lavender in a community garden, or quietly regarding the sun dappling leaves of trees on a local street engage all our senses and connect us with nature in new and deeper ways --- even in the city. AWE will collaborate with local communities to find how AWE can best serve its residents. In the longer iterations, AWE will be a locus for conversations, music and poetry and other events that celebrate and heal our relationship with nature.
The meditations will also be available for online audio download, making AWE available anywhere, anytime. AWE will have an active social media presence where people can discuss their experience with AWE and offer photos, stories or poems inspired by nature and the AWE practices. We plan to partner with researchers who can document the effects of the mindfulness-in-nature practices during AWE. Scientific research has shown the health benefits of both mindfulness and being outdoors, including reducing stress.
Kids are an exciting part of AWE. Today, children’s access to nature is often far less than that of previous generations. Research shows today’s kids spend 90 percent of their time indoors, and 50 hours a week on electronic devices, according to the Children and Nature Network. AWE offers kids the chance to develop a love of nature. We will have an active children’s program where kids can learn the mindfulness exercises. We will also partner with schools where children will plant and nurture seeds for the installation.
We are nature. AWE invites us to move beyond observation of the natural world to participation with it, as Coleman says. With our increasing disconnection from nature and its effects on climate change, connecting with nature is essential for humanity and the earth.
And as more people look for ways to unplug from technology, AWE offers a dynamic possibility: to learn to connect with nature mindfully, locally, and anytime, anywhere. For those who already enjoy nature, AWE offers a new way to experience the gifts of the natural world with increased connection and joy. AWE invites participants to experience a deeper relationship to nature, to art, and to the best aspects of ourselves, which nature often inspires. With that awareness, suddenly the tree we pass daily becomes a miracle, and the habit of distraction becomes one of connection, joy, and commitment to caring for the natural world more deeply.
Art & Social Change
As an art piece, AWE is influenced by John Cage’s understanding the present moment is the miracle and attention is key and his understanding of art and life being the same. For AWE, the piece is the experience of the participants. AWE fits into land art, participatory and durational disciplines. Henri Matisse's writings on art, Alexander Calder's understanding that the experience of the viewer is the essence of a piece, Yoko Ono's instruction pieces and Marina Abramović's work are all a part of AWE's lineage. AWE is also inspired by social change movements such as Richard Louv's New Nature Movement.