Open honesty to start, I don't meditate. I've always wanted to. I've attempted a few times. I'm in constant admiration of friends and colleagues who are deep into the practice. I've wished on occasion that I could order myself to sit still and clear my mind from the stream of thoughts that seem to continuously bubble to the surface like seltzer water in a glass. I'll try to find a quiet place to sit and be still, and latch onto some sort of mantra sound that I can roll over and over in my head. But before I know it my "Ohhmmmm" turns into something like, "Ohhmmm-mygosh I forgot to pack my daughter's lunch for her field trip today and I have to reschedule that dentist appointment so I can meet these clients on time and what in the world are we going to drum up for dinner tonight?"
Something like that.
We hear the term "meditation" and words probably come to mind like stillness, clearing of the mind, grounded, quiet and calm. The idea of moving with eyes open while somehow practicing meditation at the same time frankly had never occurred to me - until about a month ago. I had just finished up a yoga session and began talking with a woman there who was far more skilled at the practice of yoga than I. During our conversation she told me that she is "terrible" at being still. This sounded strange to me because as far as I could observe from class, she appeared to be great at it. Then she went on to explain that she is much better able to be fully aware of her body and her surroundings when she is moving. She asked if I had ever heard of "Walking Meditation." I said no, tell me more.
As she continued to tell me what she knew about the practice and how it has seemed to benefit her, and as I later began to read a bit about this form of meditation (Wild Mind), I had a hunch this could be for me. Given my own love for nature and photography, walking through a beautiful tree tunnel or lush green forest is something I try to do whenever opportunity presents. And adding to that an attempt at mindful awareness of body and breathing while moving along a tree canopy-covered trail sounded like a pretty great fit. So while I was still skeptical that I could really glean much from it, I decided to give it a go.
In the (very) short amount of time that I've been trying to learn this practice, one of the coolest things I've noticed is that it offers a way for us to focus our minds and close out unnecessary distractions, all while moving forward. To me, something about this literal forward motion as we focus on simple awareness of the senses...well it seems almost poetic. Almost as if the body is showing the mind that forward focused attention is a really great direction to take in a world where distractions are all around (or even just concentrated in the form of 50 different apps on our phones that we carry with us every day). And so far, I've found it easier for me to notice how my body is feeling, take note of my breathing, and recognize any emotions taking place while I'm moving outdoors versus sitting still on the floor inside somewhere. For me, it just seems to jive better with how I might be wired.
Another major point of appeal is the long list of benefits that meditating can have for the brain. We've probably all come across articles, TED talks, or a friend of a friend who will say that when practiced regularly, meditation can alleviate things like depression and anxiety, while helping to increase our attention spans and ability to focus, and improve our overall psychological well being (Forbes, 2015). I'm a believer. So even though I don't consider myself to be great at the practice (yet!), I'm going to try. Honing in on something that can nourish the brain and body, while giving me another excuse to get outside and explore beautiful places...well, yes please.
Please respect the places you find on The Outbound.
Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures. Be aware of local regulations and don't damage these amazing places for the sake of a photograph.