Walking Mindfully

I like to spend time in nature every day. For quite awhile this has been my form of meditation. Walking is a form of meditation when approached with mindfulness.

My first experience of being fully present in nature was when I was a child. I have lucid memories of being in the forest and feeling a deep sense of connection. For me, it was as if colours, smells, sounds, tactile sensations and feelings were magnified. My heart would open and the pulse of peace would resonate throughout my whole body; a sense of being at home.

As the years went by, the ‘busyness’ of life stood in the way of the time I needed to spend in nature, I lost the ability to feel the connection I once had. Occasionally I would sit in a park or by the ocean and wondered where the bond had gone. It is a long story of how I have renewed my relationship with nature, but what I do today on my walks certainly contributes to the deepening and maintaining of that relationship.

First, I listen to my thoughts as I enter the forest. Quite often this is the time I am reviewing what has happened or what I think is going to happen in my life. I am usually in my past or in the future. What I notice at this time is that I am completely oblivious to my surroundings… you know, like when you drive home and don’t remember the drive! I consciously breathe; bringing me back to the moment. The oxygen clears my head, I slow my pace and look at my feet, focus on the path, each small obstacle becomes the heart of my attention.

As my intention shifts, my world becomes clearer. There is a cacophony of greens shimmering from the different plants around me. Moss covered rocks, salal, sword ferns, evergreen trees and more reach out to baste expanded view. The smells on the trail shift as I walk through the different areas. Under the cover of evergreens, I smell the dampness of the shade, long without sunshine. As the trail descends to a small high-running creek, I inhale the musky Earth odor of the composting leaves lying in the mud. Then an open field unfolds and dried grasses bend while being blown by fresh, cool air; its briskness stinging my cheeks. My feet sink into the boggy marsh, a faint squish with each step, soft and comfortable. The birds, unseen, sing a spring song, even though it is early; their chirps a little higher pitched and gayer than a week before.

During the walk, I move in and out of presence. One moment, completely in the forest, the next in various circumstances affecting my life. I consciously and tenderly bring myself back.

I become aware of the energy surrounding me. A playfulness comes over me and I experiment with intention and how I can control the field. I draw the energy in, close to my body, sensing the containment I have created; the singleness of who I am in the universe. Then, I expand and like a blanket covering the entire forest, I feel as though the expansiveness of what I have created is a part of all there is.

Amy Hanson is an ARC Bodywork Therapist working from her home in Shawnigan Lake, BC.