How Can We Take Outdoor Meditation Deeper? Can meditating outside be too dependent on enjoying the external environment?

A student writes:

I have been doing a lot of outdoor meditation lately and feel that it’s going well, in the sense that I am open to whatever arises and do not easily get swept away by thoughts. I very much enjoy the practice; however I have a problem in that I feel this enjoyment is produced by the surrounding environment. I feel at peace and rest in a sense of spaciousness because I’m in an expensive, peaceful surroundings, and I find attractive surroundings make me feel good. The trouble is that this all seems too dependent on external factors, not on anything internal…

Lama Shenpen replies:

I can understand your concern. It is not that there is anything wrong in enjoying so called ‘external’ space and beauty. The important thing is to recognise that whatever it is that you are enjoying is actually in your awareness. You cannot enjoy what is not in your awareness.

When I say ‘in’ awareness, I mean quite simply that the form, the colour, the sense impression, the ideas and associations that we have with it, all that is actually our awareness. It is not actually external to it. If it were external then we would not be aware of it. This is very simple to understand but somehow the penny does not drop. We still remain convinced that we are experiencing space outside of our awareness. But how can that be?

So the practice is to keep remembering that the space we are experiencing is awareness and the sense impressions that appear in it appear in the space of awareness. This gradually links into our meditation as a very direct experience and insight so that we start to appreciate the quality of awareness itself and that whatever appears in it, be it ‘good’ or ‘bad’ has this spaciousness or ‘nowhereness’ about it.

It’s mysterious and wonderful that we are experiencing anything at all. So the important thing is not to enjoy external things less, but to enjoy them more and to discover that way of enjoying them that then carries over into every experience. That is how we develop equanimity – equal appreciation of all experience. And that is how we gain freedom from dependence on conditions.

Lama Shenpen Hookham

Become a student of Lama Shenpen – Join the Awakened Heart Sangha:

Lama Shenpen’s students are members of the Awakened Heart Sangha and are all engaging in the Living the Awakened Heart Training – the structured, comprehensive, supported, distance learning programme in Buddhist meditation, reflection and insight. The training, that’s open to all, brings the profound Dzogchen and Mahamudra teachings to a Western audience in an experiential, accessible way, through spiral learning. Find out more and how to join the Awakened Heart Sangha and start your journey to discover the heart of Buddhism at