Healing Hikes

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Laura Cohen, an OC Parks resource specialist, leads a seated meditation_Sharon Stello
Laura Cohen, an OC Parks resource specialist, leads a seated meditation after the group tried hiking with meditative techniques near Nix Nature Center. | Photo by Sharon Stello

Learn how to meditate while exploring everything that local nature trails have to offer.

By Ashley Ryan


There’s something about being in nature that is inherently calming, but combine that with mindfulness exercises and you’ve got the perfect recipe for a tranquil experience.

Meditating in Nature, a program dreamed up by Laguna Canyon Foundation and held in partnership with OC Parks, offers all that and more. From walking and standing meditations to internal visions of natural scenery, instructor Laura Cohen, an OC Parks volunteer and resource specialist at Laguna Coast Wilderness Park, utilizes a number of different exercises to educate participants on meditation techniques while also instilling a sense of peace and unity.

Held only during the summer months when the days are long, the last Meditating in Nature workshop of the summer will take place Aug. 27. To register, visit lagunacanyon.org.

inspirational message_Sharon Stello
An inspirational message on the bushes during Meditation in Nature | Photo by Sharon Stello

Laguna Beach Magazine: Why is nature a good place to meditate?

Laura Cohen: It removes the things in our normal, everyday life that might cause us worry or anxiety, and it surrounds us with the living world.


What are the benefits of meditation?

LC: Lower blood pressure, reduced chronic pain, decreased anxiety, improved mood. [It] helps [with] insomnia, improves overall health. … Also, they say it helps with sustaining attention and improves learning.


How can you stay present while meditating outdoors?

LC: Looking at each plant as you pass it, listening to the birds, the clouds—just being … focused on the here and now without thinking about what you have to do or what you have done.


What is a typical class like?

LC: We start with a simple walking meditation—maybe following our breath, paying attention to how long we inhale, how many steps we inhale [for]. … And then we do a walking meditation using some kind of word to focus on, like “stillness.” … After that, we might do a standing meditation …[while] imagining that the plants that we see are within us. … I’ll lead a sitting, … guided meditation where we walk through nature in our minds, then the last step of the meditation is really expansion. … I make it about experiencing a feeling of peace and moving that through your body and then moving out to the natural world around you, feel[ing] that peace floating and wrapping around the world.

Fox Walk_Sharon Stello
Cohen teaching participants the Fox Walk | Photo by Sharon Stello

Where does it take place?

LC: I just do it near the Nix Nature Center on Mary’s Trail. The nice thing about it is I do it after the parking lot’s closed [when there are fewer people on the trail], but before sunset.


What are some ideal places to meditate in Laguna?

LC: If you’re going to meditate, you need to be on trail—so we ask people not to go up on rocks or out on outcroppings, because its the only place animals have left. … You could go to [the] Barbara’s Lake area; you could pretty much sit on the trail and still have a view of the lake. … [Or try] Guna Peak. … It’s got a little bench that overlooks the coast and you can see all the little inlets.


What do you enjoy about leading outdoor meditation?

LC: What I get from it myself. … It makes my whole week better. So I’m grateful to the people who come along.

Eco Essentials

Dive deep into your mind with the help of these tools.


calming and ant-anxiety pouch
Whether actively using them for meditation or simply carrying them in your pocket, Cast of Stones’ CALMING STONE SET—complete with rose quartz, blue lace agate and amazonite—works to balance emotions and soothe the spirit, $22, at Areo. (949-376-0535; areohome.com) | Photo by Cast of Stones
When meditating in nature, bring along the REFLECTION blend of essential oils, which combines Arabian sandalwood to calm the mind and body, vetiver to keep you grounded and frankincense to aid with deep breathing, $15.75 per 10-milliliter bottle, at The Fragrance Boutique. (949-494-2114; tfblagunabeach.com)
The amphibious WOMEN’S 3T BAREFOOT CINCH WATER SHOES by Body Glove ensure that you’re ready for all terrains—wet or dry—while also connecting you with the land by way of a three-toe design that allows you to feel the ground below your feet, $39.99, at Dick’s Sporting Goods, Mission Viejo. (949-538-4164; dickssportinggoods.com)
The Secret Therapy of Trees
Pick up “THE SECRET THERAPY OF TREES: HARNESS THE HEALING ENERGY OF FOREST BATHING AND NATURAL LANDSCAPES” by Marco Mencagli and Marco Nieri to discover how green treatments like forest bathing and outdoor meditation can enhance our wellness and bring us closer to Mother Nature, $19.99, with advance order at Laguna Beach Books. (949-494-4779; lagunabeachbooks.com)
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