Meditation in the Great Outdoors can be an amazing experience. It’s especially enjoyable in the summer when the weather is warm, the plants and trees are green, and the wildlife is plentiful.
Most people think of meditation as something you do seated, on a pillow, with your legs crossed like a pretzel. That is one possibility, but have you considered taking your meditation outdoors for a walk.
Walking meditation is a way to blend walking and mindfulness in a meditative state. There are many benefits of walking meditation, a few of which include – it improves your over all awareness, you will get better quality sleep, your clarity and focus will sharpen, and since you are paying attention to all the physical sensations around you, it improves the mind-body connection.
Doing a walking meditation may seem like a big undertaking if you are new to meditation and don’t’ get outdoors much, but don’t over think it. Take a deep breath and head outdoors to your favorite park, local walking trail, bird estuary, or forest. You’ll be surprised how easy it will be to recapture your sense of calm when you spend some time meditating in nature.
There are a few things to think about as you prepare for your first walking meditation experience –
It’s important to be comfortable. Dress comfortably, bring some water and a snack if you like, and be prepared for the weather. You may want to drive your vehicle to your starting point so you can be fresh for your mediation and don’t have to carry extra stuff on the trail.
Find a place you know is going to be safe, relatively quiet, and not too crowded. Take along your phone in case of an emergency, but put it on silent so it doesn’t interfere with your meditation or the peace of others.
Allow yourself the luxury of not thinking about anything else while you are walking. Ignore the noise going on in your head that’s trying to distract you. Allow the stressful thoughts to float away. Just let go of all the pressures. You’re in one of your favorite places now. No worries exist there!
Once you are ready to begin, start to walk slowly – being deliberate with each step. Become aware of how your legs feel, think about how your feet feel with each step. Listen to the sound of your movement – what do you hear? As you focus on the sounds, focus on your breath as well. Get quiet inside for a few minutes.
As you are ready, allow yourself to open up to what’s going on outside. Be aware of what the air feels like. You can most likely tell that summer is here. It’s a clean, fresh, crisp feeling with a hint of heat in most places. Maybe the sun is shining or perhaps you’re deep in a thicket of trees where it’s dank and mossy. Let’s go through our individual senses.
Pause for a moment and open your ears to the outside. Listen to the sounds that surround you. Maybe the trees are rustling in the wind, or you hear the sounds of animals moving around. Notice the sounds of the birds and their individualized bird calls. Perhaps two or more birds are talking to one another. Come back to the breath.
Now open your eyes, and begin to pay attention to what you see. Look around and notice all the green trees. Look at the various colors around you. Are there flowers? See the dirt path, the tiny ants crawling on a log, and the spider web. Spend some time here taking in the beauty of things you can see. Again come back to the breath. Look for the critters in the woods. Maybe you’ll spot a raccoon or a squirrel. Observing other mammals is fascinating and you’ll learn something every time you watch an animal if you really pay attention.
Close your eyes and focus on your sense of smell. What is that fragrance? A hint of honeysuckle? The woodsy fragrance of pine? Maybe someone is cooking in the distance. Take it all in.
Breathe in and breathe out and then move on to the sense of feel. Are the leaves of a bush lightly brushing your arms? Take a moment to feel the bark of a tree, the ground beneath your feet, maybe touch some water if there is any near. Physically coming into contact with nature is a very important part of the experience, in addition to the sights, sounds and smells.
If you’ve carried a snack and a drink this is a good time to pause, find a seat, and enjoy your sense of taste. If you are familiar with your surroundings and knowledgeable about what is around you to safely taste, go ahead and use your sense of taste here as well. (A note of caution, though, do not do this if you are not one hundred percent sure of the safety of what is around you.)
While you’re sitting, take time to reflect. Think about gratitude. What are you grateful for in your life? Focus on the simple things. “I love my chair in the living room with my books piled high next to it.” “I’m grateful for the sunset I see each evening from my kitchen window.” “I’m grateful for having eyes to see and hands that work for me.”
Reflect on your accomplishments. Acknowledge your efforts to come out to do the walking meditation, give yourself a pat on the back for a difficult situation you’ve made it through recently.
Most importantly, enjoy the peace. Realize that right at this moment, you feel a sense of calm, peacefulness, and serenity that you can return to any time you want, simply by visiting this wonderful memory of nature.
Walking meditations are so good for you, and taking time to immerse yourself in the experiences of nature make them even better. Allow yourself to be keenly aware of the sights, sounds, smells, and atmosphere around you. No matter where you choose to walk – the local park, the National Forest, or one of you favorite outdoor spots, visit regularly to return to what’s most important – You!
Find your purpose – find your joy!
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