There’s a route I walk a few times a week.
The last part of the walk involves a mile-long uphill path through fields of ripened wheat. I call it the never-ending field. I’ve called it that because, at the end of the walk it is not only an uphill struggle, especially if it is raining or dark, but the scenery doesn’t change much so it can feel boring. I can see my house along the path and yet that last bit seems to takes ages. Then it definitely feels never ending. Of course, it isn’t.
The surrounding area is actually quite beautiful. I can see the sea and hills in the background. But for some reason, I find this stretch of land has a time of its own. I also became acutely aware that I am totally distracted for this part of the walk. My mind is planning, analysing and ruminating with no space to be aware of what I am actually doing.
So yesterday as I began to tread the uphill path through the field, I made a conscious decision to do it mindfully.
In the Level 1 Mindfulness training we learn how to walk mindfully. This usually involves very slow, deliberate steps where we notice how are feet are feeling as they move. Thich Nhat Hanh is well known mindful walking techniques and at the Mindfulness Association we introduce it to participants. Mindful walking can transform our experience of being present in the moment. We become more aware of how our feet feel on the ground and the different textures we are treading on. We observe how our body responds and feels as we walk. Thoughts, emotions and feelings gradually come into our awareness, so we are totally aware of how we are feeling in the moment.
As we walk, we become aware of sights, sounds and smells so we are taking in our whole experience of each footstep and moment.
So, yesterday, I made a conscious decision to walk mindfully along the ‘never ending path’. Instead of walking very slowly, I settled into my usual pace but applied the mindful walking techniques. I could feel the ground change texture as I stepped over rock, gravel and soft grass. I became aware of the rhythm of my body movement and flow of breath. Different smells, not usually noticed, came to my attention – the smell of cut hay, damp grass, the sea and the changing smells of flowers and shrubs as I passed by.
I noticed how my heart lifted and I started smiling at the various bird sounds that reached my ears. There was the distant sound of a peregrine falcon, the chatter and trill of the swallows swooping around the field and settling for a chat on wires overhead. The seagulls were loudest of all but amidst their calls I could also hear the unique sounds of the Kittiwake colony on the cliff nearby.
On the route I became more aware of all the flowers and their colours. I noticed how nature balances colours beautifully with the colours in the field being enhanced by the rich green of the grass and the yellow of the wheat. Little red blobs of poppies, cheerfully scattered in the hedgerows contrasted with the fully bloomed purple heather on the distance cliffs and moors. Then there was the sky – big, blue and beautiful with puffy white clouds skimming past. The sea was calm and silver.
As I turned back to take in the path behind me, I spotted a horizontal rainbow across the sea and I stood for a moment and absorbed all this goodness into my being. I was aware of the usual thoughts and worries coming and going in my mind, but I had been able to leave them alone and allow them to just be there along with everything else filling my senses.
All this in just one passing moment. How rich it seemed. And my mind? Not distracted at all. The mindful path had become my practice. Suddenly I was at my home. Time seemed to have passed more quickly and I arrived home feeling brighter and refreshed.
The never-ending path has now become the mindful path – and every day will be different and a magical mix to delight my senses and also bring me to the present moment. I know some days it might be dark or there might be wind or rain set to challenge me, but I will add that to my whole experience of knowing I am alive and in the now.
I invite you to choose a path you walk – even if it is your garden path – with complete mindfulness of being in the moment. Walk it mindfully, aware of each step, each breath, each sound, smell and sight and notice how it makes you feel and what happens to your experience of being in the moment. What do you notice?
I’d love to hear your comments, so please leave a comment after this post or write to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Take care and walk mindfully
If you have completed the Level 1 Being Present training or the Mindfulness Based Living 8 Week Course then please join Jacky and Heather on 31st July for the first weekend of the Online Compassion, level 2 Responding with Compassion training.
You can also join Jacky or other Mindfulness Association tutors on the free daily practice sessions at 10:30am and 7pm.
Jacky has contributed a chapter to the Mindful Heroes Book entitled “Turning Empathic Distress into Compassion – A Hero’s Journey for Family Carers”. You can hear an extract from the chapter where she talks about the results of her MSc Studies in Mindfulness on Compassion & Family Carers. You can download a free sample of Jacky’s chapter here.