“Stop thinking about yourself and just observe. Allow yourself to feel at peace. Pay attention to your breathing. Start noticing things. Reflect on them.”

These instructions seem less like a prayer and more like a mantra. Yet, these are the keys to connecting with nature, at least according to master beekeeper and gardener Regina Blakeslee. This Saturday at Mariandale, Ms. Blakeslee will lead a one-day retreat in which she will encourage participants to follow these steps while they soak in sixty-one acres of beauty, dig in a garden, and take serene walks around the campus.

For those not attending the retreat there’s still a takeaway: spend some time outside today.

According to Ms. Blakeslee, a Yorktown-Heights resident who is also a healthcare professional, beekeeper, master gardener, horticultural therapist, and permaculturist, connecting with nature can be as spiritual as being in a church.

Regina Blakeslee (left) gardens with neighbors

“When I’m in a garden, it has such a calming effect on me,” Ms. Blakeslee says. “It becomes a sanctuary to me.”

Ms. Blakeslee is Catholic, and she says that her upbringing in the faith has helped to root her in the world. She co-founded Hudson Valley Natural Beekeepers and now teaches beekeeping and planting for pollinator classes at Hilltop Hanover Farm. Her mission, she says, is to share her love of nature with others.                                                                        Regina Blakeslee (left) gardens with neighbors

While that sometimes takes the form of sharing information, this weekend, she’s hoping to help visitors at Mariandale “get out of their heads.” She’ll provide some facts, but she mainly hopes to foster a peaceful, quiet atmosphere.

“It’s important to build a relationship with nature, where we’re not thinking so much but experiencing,” she says.

Ms. Blakeslee advises anyone who needs a moment of peace —whether attending her Mariandale workshop or not— to simply step outside for a few moments. Today, spend some time outdoors (or if you’re unable to do so, admire nature from wherever you can) and quietly give yourself a few minutes to ask the following:

Where do you see natural beauty around you?

What gifts/benefits is Earth giving you?

What wisdom are you witnessing in nature?

How can you care for the natural world around you?

Give yourself some contemplative time. Allow yourself to feel connected to Earth.

It is among the best ways to feel rejuvenated.

“When I’m connecting with nature, I feel more human,” Ms. Blakeslee says. “I feel joyous and happy, and I know that’s what God wants for us, to feel a part of this whole beautiful creation.”

We hope you will, too.

This weekend’s program is one of many focusing on ecospirituality and nature. Join us at Mariandale for Qigong outdoorspoolside meditationa study of Laudato Si, and other outdoor contemplative programs.