Why not start a regular walking routine?
Many health professionals recommend it for its innumerable benefits and highly inspiring coaches make it an essential part of their daily habits (Robin Sharma and Rebecca Campbell are devout practitioners). And why not easily turn your walk into a movement meditation or mindfulness exercise? Without much effort, you become aware of your environment and Bingo!, you relax your mind while doing physical exercise.
This article is based on walks in the forest and countryside. You can also achieve the same effects by walking by the seaside ;-)
Walk into a Movement Meditation or Conscious Walk
A lot of people associate meditation with a seated, cross-legged, immobile person. Although this is a great form of meditation, you can also meditation while moving. Meditation in its higher form is achieved by withdrawing from the senses (prathyara), attaining focused concentration (dharana) and getting absorbed by meditation (dhyana), these are part of the 8 limbs of yoga. Such type of mediation requires a lot of training (both physically to stay in seated position for a long time and mentally to achieve disconnection from the busy mind.
A good way to start off on your meditation journey is to be mindfully present. Walking consciously requires that you focus on what is present around you, thereby reconnecting with what is. This is a form of yoga: indeed, yoga means “union” – union of the body, the mind and the soul (as in this part of us that is connected to all). By associating our senses to Nature, we reach a higher dimension, we start feeling part of a greater dimension.
How to Consciously Walk?
Become aware of your surroundings is easily achieved through our senses. Linking your senses to your direct environment (Nature) brings you to the present and makes your true essence visible (it is usually stuck under various layers of social/mental conditioning). This is an easy, free and tremendously enjoyable way to unwind and reconnect to yourself and nature. You will never get bored of it as Nature changes along the year: seasons, weather etc.
Here are some ways to connect to your senses:
Actively and mindfully listen to birds singing. Their joy is so contagious… Depending on the season, different types of birds are singing. In Spring, they are very active.
You are walking by a river; listen to the sound of water.
Little sounds up in the trees? Maybe a squirrel or a bird hiding?
On a very quiet walk, focus on the sound of silence, so rare to find nowadays.
I love wild aromatic plants such as rosemary, thyme, fennel (widely available in the Mediterranean region). What are the common plants around you?
Fig trees also smell delicious, as well as the wood after a good rain… so many lovely smells to uplift your spirits.
Fruits, aromatic herbs, wild berries are free to taste (just make sure you know them well first to avoid food poisoning). Here in Barcelona, we have wild figs, almonds, fennel stems, blackberries…
Hold a stone, feel the breeze on your skin, the warmth of the morning sun..
Walking barefoot is a great thing to do as it massages your feet and help you reconnect to Mother Earth.
A report of the National Library of Medicine (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3265077/) on earthing through walking barefoot states: “whether being outside barefoot or indoors connected to grounded conductive systems—may be a simple, natural, and yet profoundly effective environmental strategy against chronic stress, ANS dysfunction, inflammation, pain, poor sleep, disturbed HRV, and many common health disorders, including cardiovascular disease.”
Some might say: I already do this every second of every day. But do you really? Do you consciously try and see the details of things right in front of you?
Be mindful and really watch birds, squirrels. Look at all the amazing colours of nature: the leaves, flowers, birds and insects. To me, nature is like a living art museum. Nature offers so many masterpieces; you just need to pay attention as it is freely available in front of your eyes. Taking pictures could help you see in a more conscious way. This is the trick for me. I spend hours taking pictures of nature.
Here are a few options to help you connect with your senses:
- Create a mandala with stones, petals, leaves, flowers, pinecones. Mandalas are also a good tool to unload, find balance and solve problems.
- If you take your dog along, watch it carefully. See how excited it is, this is also contagious.
- Walking barefoot requires you to watch the ground to avoid stepping on hazards. You need to be present.
- Take photos
- Pick flowers and make a wild flowers bouquet (you can offer these flowers to people you love)
- Foraging: pick up herbs and fruits
Congratulations on reading this article! This is your first milestone. Now, mark your agenda and stick to it! Walks are an essential part of your emotional and physical health. They can help you improve your body, head and human relations and keep them all healthy. They can by an ally to cope with hard life situations by helping you see clearer and increase your creativity. Here, I am not only referring to artistic creativity but also to creative thinking and problem solving.
Going a step further…
Once you have made your walk a routine and you really feel yourself in the present, you can go a step further. Read this article to learn more…