Learn how to create more peace and joy in your daily life with mindful nature walks.
In India, there is an old Bodhi tree that shades the very spot where the Buddha is believed to have sat in meditation on the night of his enlightenment. Close by is a raised walking path about 17 steps in length, where the Buddha mindfully paced up and down in walking meditation after becoming enlightened, experiencing the joy of a liberated heart. Very close to where I live is an ancient woodland path that passes a 400 year old Beech Tree called The Heritage Tree. It was here 4 years ago that I discovered Natural Mindfulness.
In his teachings, the Buddha stressed the importance of developing mindfulness in all postures, including standing, sitting, lying down, and walking. When reading accounts about the lives of monks and nuns in the time of the Buddha, you find that many attained various stages of enlightenment while walking mindfully.
There are Forest Meditation Traditions all over the world. In northeast Thailand there are still monks who live in simple single-room dwellings dispersed throughout the forest. Around each hut there are well-worn meditation paths. At various times of the day or night, monks can be seen pacing up and down these paths, mindfully striving to realise the same liberation of heart attained by the Buddha.
While I don’t expect that many of you will want to go and live like hermits in the forest, you may want to try mini escapes into nature to discover the deeper connection I call Natural Mindfulness; it’s a valuable mental training for furthering awareness, concentration, and serenity. If developed, it can strengthen and broaden your meditation practice to new levels of tranquility and insight.
When walking with Natural Mindfulness, the main focus of attention are the senses of sight, sound, touch and smell as you journey through the natural landscape. In other words, to sharpen awareness and train the mind to concentrate, you pay close attention to the physical act of Journeying, both outwardly and inwardly. This practice is more natural, obvious and tangible than in the more refined meditation techniques, such as focusing on the breath or a mantra, which are often used in traditional sitting meditation.
Focusing the mind, body and spirit in this way avoids two extremes that traditional meditators sometimes experience during their sitting meditations:
First, you are less likely to fall into a state of dullness or sleepiness because you are physically moving with your eyes open. In fact, walking meditation is often recommended for meditators who have a problem with the hindrance of dullness.
The other extreme is having too much energy, which typically results in feelings of mild tension or some restlessness. Because Natural Mindfulness walks are usually not practiced with the same intensity and concentration as a sitting practice, there is less chance of creating tension by using excessive force in an effort to focus the mind.
Walking mindfully is a pleasant and relaxing experience for both mind and body, and therefore an excellent way to release stress or restless energy.
Another advantage is of special benefit for those who spend a great deal of time sitting down during their day. Sitting at a computer, or desk, driving long distances and living a very sedentary lifestyle. Sitting for such long periods inevitably causes some physical discomfort or pain. Getting the balance right is key to improving the physical and mental stresses sitting down for long periods causes our bodies and minds.
Finally, practicing Natural Mindfulness walking greatly facilitates the development of mindfulness in ordinary daily life. If you can learn to establish awareness during walks in nature—when you are physically moving with your eyes open—then it won’t be difficult to arouse that same wakeful quality during other activities, such as doing your job, eating, washing dishes, or driving. It will be easier for you to arouse mindfulness while walking to a bus stop, through the park, or during any other time.
Natural Mindfulness will begin to permeate your entire life.
The importance of this cannot be overstated. It is the presence of mindfulness that keeps your consciousness alive and alert to reality, thereby transforming ordinary life into a continuous practice of meditation, and transforming the mundane into the spiritual.
To illustrate the sheer power of mindful walking, I often recall an event that took place during the height of the Vietnam War. The well-known meditation teacher Thich Nhat Hanh was touring the United States, giving talks and participating in demonstrations in support of a peaceful resolution to the war. Obviously, people had strong feelings, and any demonstration could easily turn into an ugly confrontation. Fortunately, into the midst of that highly charged emotional atmosphere, Thich Nhat Hanh’s presence brought the irresistible power of a truly peaceful being. Picture the power of this simple Buddhist monk at the head of a demonstration of thousands of people, walking slowly, silently, peacefully. With each step it was as if time paused, and the aggressive, restless energy of the crowd was miraculously calmed.
Ian Banyard is a Nature Connection Guide and author of Natural Mindfulness – your personal guide to the healing power of nature connection. He is passionate about exploring nature and empowering people. Ian combines a wealth of knowledge and experience from his personal and corporate life with intuitive and instinctive insights from his own inner journey, to guide others.
Ian lives in Gloucestershire, UK where he guides Natural Mindfulness Walks and provides coaching, courses, gatherings and retreats, for others who want to deepen their connection with nature and their true nature.
To attend a Natural Mindfulness Walk or event, visit Natural Mindfulness Walks
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