With a new year stretching ahead of us, we naturally begin to think about and reflect upon past experiences and future hopes. A great way to do this is on the move in nature. Being ‘mindful’ in, and connecting to, the natural world is an integral part of our happiness and wellbeing. ‘Wandering’ (walking without a particular destination) reminds us of the importance of exploration and allows us to be guided by nature and our instincts. Here are some ideas to experience the joys of walking and placing your attention in the moment.
Fox walking – Imagine you are a fox and walk as silently as possible, moving slowly and mindfully. Let your feet connect with the ground in stages, heel first and then the side of your foot all the way up to the toes last. Step the same way with the other foot, feeling the ground and your connection with the earth. Pause when something catches your attention. What senses are you using? Do you feel different after walking like a fox?
Rain walking – A walk in the rain helps you to see and feel things in a different perspective. Dark skies, dramatic cloud formations and reflections in puddles help us to view our thoughts in a different light. Focus your attention on the calming smell of the earth and the freshness of the cool air. Enjoy splashing in a puddle! Just like a rain shower, everything has its moment and will pass.
Dawn walking – Get up early, roughly an hour before sunrise, to experience the beginning of a new day; that magical moment of morning twilight before the sun appears on the horizon. Dawn is a tranquil time and is a great time for watching wildlife, when nocturnal animals might still be about. Close your eyes for a moment and bring your awareness to your sense of hearing and immerse yourself in the dawn chorus – what is the furthest birdsong you can hear and the closest? If you can, choose a still, clear morning as birdsong carries better when its not windy.
Nature guided walking – Go on walk where nature guides you by using natural navigation techniques for getting your bearings. Follow features such as hedgerows, woodland edges and seek out and follow a course of a stream. You will need to quiet your mind and pay attention to your surroundings and retain some awareness of direction. Remember to stop every few steps – look up and around you and use your five senses. Always try to follow the same route back that you took moving away.
Seasonal walking – Get a group to plan a route that can be walked during the spring, summer, autumn and winter. The familiarity of the walk, developed over the four seasons, deepens our observations of change more fully and powerfully reminds us that we are part of nature and its rhythm. Try to experience your journey at different times of day and weather.
History walking – Find an old map and walk a route. Use the features on the map to explore and imagine how the landscape has changed. Place names can help reveal past land uses, long forgotten, and features such as hedges, boundaries and ditches, which you can use for navigating. Be patient with yourself and enjoy your explorations.
Natural play walk – Combine a walk with other physical challenges, such as jumping over a stream, balancing on logs and climbing a tree. Playing with nature and being ‘wild’ has many associated health benefits, it stimulates our imagination and we learn how to take appropriate risks in life. Above all enjoy yourself!
Finally, you should always be prepared for walking – wear suitable outdoor clothing for the weather, bring snacks and water, and let someone know where your going and when you expect to return.