Starting by touching the earth, being aware of the earth beneath that is holding us, it’s stability. We might breathe in and out three times while we touch, coming home to our body, checking in with the present moment. What is happening right now? The earth is here for me, I am here for whatever is happening inside and outside. Just present, allowing. If I notice I am nervous, or afraid that I am not good at this, or preoccupied with thoughts about some issue… then I notice kindly, I smile, all this can be here for my walk. I will walk with the solidity of the earth, the openness of the sky, the flow of the river, the breath of the trees. They are showing up for me and I will do my best to show up for them.
We can then set an intention. We could address this to the path we are about to take, to God, to ourselves, to whomever we would like to address it, but it is important to decide on the sentence in our mind and then to say it, perhaps even a few times, to be very clear for ourselves. Some examples of intentions for a medicine or healing walk might be:
May I open to the healing and beauty that is offered to me by nature on this walk.
May I have an insight into the issue that I am facing at present (naming the issue).
May I be supported in bringing kindness and love to myself, just how I am, on this walk.
May I receive the teaching that would most benefit me at this time.
Once we have said our intention we can let it go completely. The thinking mind, the furrowed brow, does not produce our answer or our healing. We can let go of that and any other problems, stories or distractions and walk just to walk. Walk freely, walk to appreciate, to become really present for what we see, what we feel, what we hear. We use our senses to ‘tune in’ to what is around us more deeply. It is present for us, offering life and beauty, so now we make the conscious decision to show up for it.
Remembering to stop when we see something that calls to us. The beauty around us can be a cue to remind us to come back to the present moment, to our body and our gentle steps.
The mountains are a queue for us to remember our own inherent solidity when we practice, the trees, like lungs, make fresh air for us and can remind us to breathe. The water beside us can remind us to let go. To let the shape of this walk fill out whatever way it wants to fill out, like water takes on whatever shape it is poured into. To let anything we want to let go of be carried along and be cleaned by the water. Stopping to notice the gift of the sound of water, we can savour it for three breaths.
Noticing the patterns in the trees and in the stones, you can see secrets that were only meant for you to see, that will show themselves to you, when you look, again and again. That is your conversation with what is around you and it is the willingness to lean into that conversation again every time you realise that you have gone into thoughts or a habit energy of feeling that you need to move faster.
Stopping to be with the tree covered in Lichen – to see more deeply you need ten breaths. Not searching, just embracing, noticing what’s there. See if you can stay looking, there is no end to seeing. Notice how you calm as you follow the breath in and out. If there are strong emotions, it may not be the time for this practice, if so, return to the feeling of the feet in rhythm on the path that is holding you.
Incorporating gratitude practice.
Sometimes when walking we may find ourselves deeply gripped by a strong negative emotion or story that is very hard to be with. To bring us out of the thinking and more into our heart (bringing us into a more relaxed, receptive state) we can name five things we are grateful for as we walk. At first, we may only be faking the gratitude, but after a few attempts, it starts to become easier. We might notice how we are supported by the people around us, that someone laid this path for me, that someone keeps it clean. That we have healthy eyes to see the birds in the sky, that there are grass and trees in the place that we live…
Teachings, insight, understanding.
Often on a walk our attention may be drawn to something in particular. Give this thing your full attention, just looking and being with it. There is no need to puzzle anything out or strive. In fact, with any difficulty in our minds, the only true answers come when we are calm and receptive, when we can give a little space to ourselves and our difficulty. Say for instance after speaking with a friend and ‘sleeping on it’. Taking ourselves on a healing walk can offer a similar experience. We acknowledge and name our difficulty or need as best we can (this can be done when setting our intention) and then we offer it to the walk to take care of. We let ourselves off the hook. For this 30 minutes at least I am here, I am free, I can walk with freedom on this beautiful earth. I can breathe and see and smile at all the beauty and life around me and allow my mind to rest in the rhythm of my footsteps and breath, in the songs of the birds, the rumble of the cars, the burbling of voices. I let all things be as I walk. I don’t need to struggle. I don’t need to be anything or change myself in any way. I can just allow myself to walk and breathe and enjoy. In this kind, spacious contact with our own awareness and the beauty of what is around us, a shift in perspective can occur. A wee thoughteen can drop in, pop up, slide across, wave out from our heart and suddenly: AH! Or more gentle, ohhh, oh. I see.
We have no control over what comes. But we can trust that if we come to nature with an openish mind and an openish heart, no teaching will ever come back that does not feel good in our stomachs, safe in our hearts. Even if it is an insight about something we may want to do differently, there is never a feeling of judgement. In fact, that is the ready reckoner – insight has the colour and vibration of allowing, non-judgement, ease, love, acknowledgement of our inherent goodness. Often there is a blend of our own thoughts and rationalisations with our heart-understanding. This is okay too, we learn and learn as we lean into our own deeper wisdom. We access this wisdom by setting the intention that we wish to engage with it on our walk. Nature is our ally in this attempt. An always present, always beautiful, refreshing friend that will welcome us in all our ways of being. There can be no walk attempted in self-care that will not result in some lifting of our burdens, some light to loosen our knots.
I took a preparatory walk several days before I was to conduct the public walk that the above notes were written for and made an audio recording of what came to me as I walked. It was just a way of taking notes for myself at the time but it has a nice raw, spontaneous quality to it that you might enjoy 🙂