Most spiritual masters recognize being out in nature as a means to cultivating this peace more effortlessly. In fact, walking in nature has long been a path of yoga - also known as Walking Meditation.
Walking Meditation is easy, takes little time, requires no formal training, and offers amazing health benefits. It is particularly valued for its ability to refresh your mind, give you an emotional boost, and help you feel more in sync with nature’s cycles.
What I like most about walking meditation is it helps me see things anew. For instance, I drive to the train station every Friday to go work in the city. I know the walk from my car to the train with my eyes closed. And in a way, they are closed, as I’m often in a rush, on my cell phone, or mentally reviewing my list of things to do. But… every now and then I park a bit further away than usual. I pause and take a few breaths in my car. Then, I consciously make an effort not to return a phone call or answer the phone as I get out and begin walking slowly towards the train. I intentionally enjoy the fresh air and notice the conditions around me.
When I walk slowly like this, I observe what’s around me as if for the first time. The color of a house, a collection of rocks in a garden, the peeling bark of an old tree, and the crack in a sidewalk were a flower is sneaking up. All of a sudden my daily trotted territory becomes a brand new landscape. In a way, it’s as if I’m on vacation – in a new land. I’m interested and engaged in my environment which naturally refreshes my mind and mood. I’m also relaxed. For as the mind rests in the present, enjoying the moment, it is released from the exhausting habitual rewinding, fast forwarding, and jumping from thought to thought that it is normally occupied by. I get on the train, and eventually arrive at class in a total different state. With a mind that is more clear, and a mood more uplifted. So in the end, my more mindful walk is good for everyone.
Try it today! Set aside 10 or 20 minutes to walk. Pick a location outside such as a local park or a good walking neighborhood. Of course you can do it during your regular daily routine too if you just park a bit further away – such as on your way into the grocery store, work, picking up your kids, anywhere really.
There is really no right or wrong when it comes to walking meditation. And, you don’t have to walk so slow that people will wonder what you are doing. Just walk slowly enough that you can be fully present with your breath, your steps, and the nature around you. You don't need to focus on anything special, simply be mindful of the beauty of your surroundings. Notice the flowers and trees. Smell the freshness in the air. Listen to the songbirds that have returned. Mentally relax as you internally greet the sounds and sight of those who pass bye, children playing and dogs walking. Of course, feel open to offer a smile or a verbal hello.
When we slow down enough, any moment can be a potential to wake up; to connect more.
MORE RESOURCES FOR WALKING MEDITATION
"THE LONG ROAD TURNS TO JOY: A Guide to Walking Mediation" By Thich Nhat