Walking barefoot, silent, and with slow, exaggerated steps, I follow my teacher on the jungle path. The softening late afternoon light dapples the trees and brush and I notice orange pods on the ground and yellow green leaves alongside me. I spy the pochote tree and take out my cell phone camera, as instructed, and quietly snap photos, each one getting closer and closer in to the bark and prickers.
The final photo is so close the pochote thorn looks like a bird opening its beak. This is what Koko Kiwa, my GreenZones teacher, wanted me to discover. A quiet, thoughtful and new way to observe the nature around me.
GreenZones Mindful Practice, the program’s name, is a free Tuesday afternoon class (3:30 – 5:00 pm) open to Harmony hotel’s guests and the public. Participants practice brief yoga breathing before learning how to take a meditative nature walk. Kiwa, a yoga instructor and life coach originally from Japan, is the program’s first teacher.
The Harmony Hotel’s Healing Centre blended meditation, nature and photography with the Nosara Civic Association’s values on conservation. Then, added in an artistic element, to create an unusual class.
Kiwa said that the program aims to support the NCA’s conservation efforts and the trail system, while teaching about mindful practice, including in photography.
In the class, participants walk from the Healing Centre reception area to one of the nearby NCA sponsored public trails and sit together in the jungle. Kiwa leads students through some yoga breathing and brief meditation and reflection on nature.
“We want people to see and appreciate nature in a different way. Usually your cell phone is a distraction or your photos are just to put up on facebook,” she said. But in this session, Kiwa instructs how to look deeply and meditatively at one natural phenomena using the cell phone camera. Students photograph a single leaf or pattern in a tree’s bark or twist of a branch, for example. The class closes with students sharing photos while practicing active listening.
Monica Ramos, Creative Director of the Healing Centre said the hotel’s artist in residence Jenny Kendler had the idea to include mindful photography instruction in the class and that Kendler will curate students’ photos into a photography book later on. Proceeds from any book sales would return to the NCA’s conservation efforts Ramos explained. Kiwa asks class participants each week to upload one or two of their nature photographs to the GreenZones website.
“This class emphasizes the mind, body, heart, nature connection. The idea is to give back to the community and protect the green zones,” Ramos explained.
GreenZones Mindful Practice began in February and will continue on Tuesdays throughout April, Ramos said. For further information, contact the Harmony Healing Centre at
[email protected] or visit the program’s website at GreenZonesNosara.com.