Mindfulness in Nature: Exploring the Four Elements

Program Overview

This four-week course will be an opportunity to come together and practice mindfulness in the beautiful and natural setting of Sarah P. Duke Gardens on the campus of Duke University. We will explore how mindful awareness of and within Nature can be used to facilitate a sense of spaciousness, helping us realize the truth of our interconnection with all of life as it unfolds, breath by breath, moment by moment. Prior experience with mindfulness practices would be helpful but not necessary, as all participants will be encouraged to embrace one of the important attitudes of mindfulness — “Beginner’s Mind.” Various forms of mindfulness practice will be used to awaken our sensitivity to the natural world so as to discover the insights that Nature can provide as a teacher. Each week we will explore a different element of nature — Earth, Air, Water, and Fire — and how these elements help us discover our intimate connection with all of life, especially as we bear witness to the ever-present effects of our climate crisis. Practicing in this way will hopefully lead to greater healing of ourselves and the Earth.

The Sarah P. Duke Gardens located on the Duke University campus in Durham, North Carolina. Duke Health and Well-Being is proud to partner with Sarah P. Duke Gardens to offer this program. For additional information on partnership opportunities, please visit


Learning Objectives

  • Experience firsthand how connecting with Nature can help quiet the busy mind.
  • Discover mindfulness practices that both awaken the senses and open the heart.
  • Examine directly how the habitual patterns of a busy life create a sense of separation, alienation, and isolation from the natural world.
  • Understand that we are not just being out in Nature, we are Nature.

Upcoming Dates and Deadlines


Instructor: Ron Vereen, MD

Ron Vereen is a board-certified psychiatrist, psychotherapist, and certified group psychotherapist in private practice in Durham and Consulting Associate in the Department of Psychiatry at Duke University. Having practiced mindfulness since 1992, he began teaching this to others in 1999 as an instructor in the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Program at Duke Integrative Medicine, as well as integrating mindfulness principles into his psychotherapy practice. He applies a mindfulness-informed approach to individual and group therapy modalities in the treatment of a variety of difficulties including anxiety, addictions, mood and personality disorders, being interested in the integration of Eastern traditions and Western psychology. In 2009 he co-founded the Triangle Insight Meditation Community where he teaches mindfulness and leads various related activities including meditation classes, study groups, and both day-long and weekend meditation retreats.


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