It’s all very well to hop off the bolster and take our spiritual practice on the road with a moving meditation, but with all of the distractions out there and within, how do we quiet the mind?
I do a lot of solo bush walking. It’s a passion for me and I get my best writing and business ideas, plus a super-clear head while out on the trails. I walk in silence, no headphones or music blaring from a phone. And I pay attention to how my body feels, to the plants and trees, the birds, the ocean and the ground I pass over. But then, I often discover there’s another layer of mental activity happening that’s beneath my surface awareness. There’ll be a pop song on a loop, various random thoughts, memories or plans floating through, or a heavy emotion creating a dense backdrop.
What I’ve realised, is that although it’s important to have time where we let the mind wander freely, it’s better to do it with intention, rather than in an unaware way. In other words, it’s better to bring some discipline to the process.
Before we start walking, we might set a clear intention about what we’d like to get out of the journey. Sometimes it’s obvious because we’re feeling undeniably angry, sad, frustrated or confused. In these cases, we might create an intention to honour and work through the strong feeling and perhaps come to a decision, receive guidance about the issue, or simply feel soothed by walking it out.
Other times we’re feeling okay, perhaps just mildly flat or restless, so we might have the intention of feeling calmer and more connected by the time we return. The key is to begin in a state of awareness and presence and to have a goal to cultivate that presence while we’re walking. To me, it’s one of the best and easiest of therapies to access. It’s something I often talk about with clients and it’s a key feature in my women’s retreats.
Walking as therapy
If you come on retreat with me this September, we’ll be doing a couple of long walks in silence, and in order to get the most out of these potentially magical experiences, it’s ideal if we can be lovingly present with ourselves. The following suggestions on how, are based on the reality that the mind needs to be doing something as we walk, so we might as well give it something useful to do.
My favourite thing to do while walking is to imagine my energy field is expanding larger and larger around me, encompassing every bush, stone, tree and creature. When I do this, I feel the deepest sense of peace and connection to ALL. It’s intensely healing, but that’s just one idea…
Here’s six more ways we can use the mind in an intentional and meditative way.
- Look around for a precious item to pick up such as a pretty leaf, feather or stone
- Listen to all of the layers of sound around you, searching for bird song, reptiles rustling in the leaves, the wind in the trees and your footfalls on the ground
- Be fully in your body, notice how it feels to move your legs, feel your feet hitting the earth, feel yourself breathing, focusing especially on the exhalations
- Alternate between looking up at the sky, to your left, to the front and then to your right and to the ground, in a slow motion cycle
- Sing or chant a simple mantra such as Om (pronounced auummm, the universal sound of creation) or Aham Prema (I am divine love). You can let the mantra roll silently through your mind or sing it out loud
- Use moments of pause such as stopping to look at the view, or releasing an audible sigh, to snap yourself back into the present moment
You could pick one or two techniques and combine them or just focus on one at a time. Immersing ourselves in the natural world has a powerful healing effect and we get some bonus exercise at the same time.
For more help with cultivating a meditation practice or calming your busy mind, contact me for a guidance and healing session. We can meet online or in-person if you live in the south-west.