As I have let you know in several previous blog posts, I have been a meditator for years. But I recently discovered a new way of bringing mindfulness into my life that has been a wonderful discovery for me. I'd like to share it with you in this blog post, in the hopes that it might also prove to be a valuable practice for you.
Historically my meditation practice has involved various kinds of traditional sitting meditation, things like following the breath or metta, a form of compassion enhancing meditation.
About a year ago I the decided to try something new. A friend of mine who is also meditator and I went for walk in the UBC endowment lands. It was lovely to be with my friend and to chat about what had been going on in our lives since we last met. However, at a certain point in the walk I realized that, as much as I was enjoying being with my friend, a part of me was also wanting to more fully appreciate the feeling of being immersed in nature. Because I knew that my friend was also a dedicated meditator I spontaneously decided to ask her if she wanted to spend a half an hour of our precious time together doing “mindful nature walking”. To my delight she said that had actually been thinking the same thing!
So for the next half an hour we stayed together but stopped chatting and instead focused our full awareness on the sensual experience of being in the forest. I occasionally shifted my awareness from: the physical feeling of walking on the springy path; to my visual awareness of all the lovely colours of green around me; to the equally lovely sounds of nature that were surrounding us. As with any form of meditation, whenever I noticed that my attention had shifted from what I was focusing on I would note that, and then gently return my awareness to the object of attention.
Both my friend and I remarked afterwards had deeply revitalizing and refreshing this experience had been. I have always found the experience of walking in nature to be deeply refreshing, especially in the forests of the Lower Mainland. But somehow doing so mindfully, even just for 30 minutes, strongly enhanced the feelings of restoration that I received from this.
So in the last year I have made a commitment to trying to do mindful nature walks, sometimes with friends and sometimes on my own, at least a couple of times a month. I have found this to be a really wonderful way of lowering my stress levels and of feeling more connected to something greater then myself.
So the next time you find yourself out in the lovely nature that surrounds us I invite you to give mindful walking a try, even for 10 minutes. I hope that it will offer you the same benefits that I have received from this practice.