Mindful walking is a wonderful way to fully appreciate the seasons. Since starting to train as a mindfulness practitioner in 2012, I have really noticed how much difference it has made in terms of the quality of attention I give to nature.
The first lockdown provided ideal circumstances for engaging in this practice. The weather was good for weeks on end and spring was just beginning. I hadn’t spent much time in my local park before then but suddenly, due to working from home, I was going there every day. This provided a great opportunity to really watch spring unfolding. I noticed gradually more leaves appearing on the trees, different flowers coming into bloom, and the birds singing. Then, as we moved into summer, I felt the warmth slowly increasing of the sun on my skin and noticed laughter as children enjoyed themselves. I love autumn leaves and, this year more than any other, I felt I had more opportunity to watch them gradually change colour and fall to the ground. I heard many scrunch beneath my feet.
We are now entering winter and the deciduous trees are nearly bare. There has been the first frost and I enjoy seeing the whitened grass, feeling the cool fresh air against my face, and hope that, at some point, there will be snow with all the changes in scenery that brings. I anticipate that I will be partially working from home until the coming spring, making it a whole year of witnessing all the seasonal change in my nearest park. It will be one of the things I really remember about this period of lockdowns and spending more time in my local area.
Walking in a mindful way, taking in sensory experience, and paying attention to the feeling of the soles of the feet making contact with the ground can be very centring. At a time when life was thrown into chaos, mindful walking in nature helped me enormously with staying present and grounding myself. It can prevent thoughts and feelings from running away with themselves and leading us into rumination about the past or worries about the future. If the mind starts going into these, then we can simply acknowledge that this is happening, notice these thoughts for what they are, and bring ourselves back to the sensations in the soles of the feet or of the legs moving as we walk. We can then either maintain this narrow focus of attention if the mind is feeling very scattered, or we can broaden awareness out to take in the full range of senses if the mind feels more settled again.
If you are regularly doing the same walk each day, whether that’s to and from work or as a break when working from home, I would recommend trying to bring a mindful approach to this process and the natural, and ever-changing world around you. It makes a repetitive activity more interesting and can bring more appreciation and simple pleasures into your daily life.