Posted on April 18, 2016
I was pretty amped. It was a busy week. I had started thinking about the state of my lawn which may need professional help to rescue it as it has turned into a mini-jungle. OK, actually it may need professional help because I’m dreading the patience and time commitment needed for me to get my lawn in passable shape. But that’s another story. I was also riding an adrenaline high from my training. Saturday brought a successful long run and Sunday I ran the Shoes for the Shelter 5K at Canisius College, the later giving a much stronger performance than I was anticipating. I had a few hours before driving to Rochester to spend the night with my brother’s family for a packed Monday as a guest speaker for his journalism classes at Oswego State.
Mentally, I was flying. It wasn’t necessarily a bad type of flying, but my mind was going 100 miles a minute and I could no longer keep pace with my own thoughts.
I needed a break.
So I went to the woods.
Earlier in the week I did an interview for Women Empower Active with Mary Maddux of Meditation Oasis. I have used their guided meditations in the past and it is what moved me into a daily meditation practice using the app Insight Timer. During the interview she discussed walking meditations for a little bit. I became intrigued so I downloaded the walking meditation app. Return to Sunday early afternoon and my racing mind. I decided to try it out on the trails of WIlson–Tuscarora State Park (now known to me as “my woods.”)
To be honest, it felt wrong putting on my ear buds as I entered the trail. The trail is where you come to unplug. But I wanted to try the experience so I put them in and started the app. There were three meditations to chose from: Fully Present, Enliven Body and Enliven Sense. I picked Fully Present — a 16 minute guided walking meditation. And off I went.
Well first, I stood still, following the instructions to breath deeply, notice the feel of my feet on the ground, notice how my body felt and notice what I was seeing. The walking was to be at an easy normal pace — not a fast, athletic-minded stride and not an unnaturally slow meander. Just walk as you normally would walk. Thoughts will come and go through the meditation. The idea is not to follow a train of thought. Just notice the thought, then get back to the meditation focus which was on noticing the present.
About three minutes into the meditation, I took one of the earbuds out (this was genius and I don’t know why I didn’t think of it at the start) so that I could listen as Mary’s voice guided my walk but still hear the sounds of the woods. And boy were there sounds of the woods to hear.
I had walked in these woods several times during my Hike 52 project and heard birds from time to time. Now it was April and the spring migration was in full swing. So of course there were more birds and a wider variety of birds both to see and hear. Intellectually I knew this of course. But for some reason this was the first time I really experienced what that sounded like and, more importantly, what that felt like. It was an unseasonably brisk day but the sun was shining and and the birds were active. I tried to remember a few of the calls to share with Scott who has a significantly wider nature knowledge than I do. But I didn’t get caught up in trying to remember the calls. I just listened. I paid attention.
My total walk time was only about 30 minutes. There were no stats and no photos on this Hike 52 adventure. I started this goal of getting out on trails once a week for a year because it’s something I love and I wanted to create more space in my life for those things I love. But there also was a sense of exploration and adventure. There was a sense of challenging myself with awesome hikes and recording how many miles I went how much elevation I gained. And that’s still part of it. But that’s not the whole story. I’m not going to the trail to conquer. I’m going to the trail to be. The meditation walk was a fabulous way to calm down my mind, to bring into the present, to notice what was going on around me instead of me running through the woods (or life) with my head fixed only on the end goal.
The more time I spend in the woods, the more I find it’s not just about seeing what’s out there. It’s about seeing what’s inside me as well.
Date: April 10, 2016
Location: Wilson-Tuscarora State Park
Total distance: n/a
Duration: About 30 minutes
Weather: sun/brisk 30s
Hiked with: solo