When you think about meditation, you might picture a man-bunned yogi sitting in a quiet room, burning incense, seated on a small pillow, legs in lotus position, palms up & eyes closed with a laser focus on aligning his chakras & achieving inner peace.
And while that strategy is attractive to some, for others, it’s about as appealing as hammering a nail through your toes.
(Whoops, wrong hammer…but you get the point….)
And if you find yourself in the latter camp, believe me – you’re not alone.
While meditation has demonstrable benefits, unfortunately its culture isn’t equally captivating to all.
The good news is that meditation comes in many forms, so if you’re not keen on aligning your chakras – not to worry.
Movement + meditation can be just as beneficial, and if you enjoy being outdoors, a little dose of nature might be all you need to find your groove.
Though there are guidelines around meditation – including walking or hiking meditations – I have a very simple philosophy.
It’s called, “you do you.”
Instead of feeling confined by should’s & supposed to’s, choose a style, pace & location that works best for you.
First, decide whether you want to go it alone or with others.
It’s totally up to you, though remember that the goal is to walk in silence so that you can turn inward rather than spend the time catching up.
That doesn’t mean that you can’t hike in pairs or groups – it only means that everyone has to be on board with the whole “quiet” thing before you head out.
Choose your spot
Ideally, you want to head to a spot that offers minimal noise & distractions. It’s also best to choose a trail rather than bushwhacking, because you’ll need to focus on your body & the world around you rather than how to avoid getting lost.
If you need help finding a spot – check out one of these sites to help you find a great local hike:
Choose your pace
Walking meditations are “supposed” to be slow, but you have to choose the cadence & pace that’s right for you.
Do you like to walk slowly? If so, by all means take your time walking along the trail & observing the world around you, stopping to be curious & inquisitive.
If you tend to move faster, then move at whatever pace you most enjoy.
Breathe & focus
As you move along the trail, the goal is to learn how to bring yourself into the here & now.
To do that, focus on the sounds of birds singing, leaves rustling in the wind, frogs croaking, waves hitting the shoreline – whatever catches your attention.
You don’t have to judge it, identify it or otherwise figure it out. You’re merely an observer.
You can also focus on your own body – your breathing, heart rate & footsteps. How the wind feels on your skin, what sounds & sensations you’re noticing, what colors you can see.
When you take each step, feel each footstep. Notice your knee bending, and your foot striking the ground.
Observe how your body keeps its balance & what muscles you use to scramble across the rocks.
Again, you don’t have to judge or label it. It’s not good or bad, you’re not doing well or not well. You’re only observing yourself & your own movements in any given moment.
Stop & listen
At whatever interval you’d like, take some time to stop & listen. Notice what you can see, hear & smell from this spot.
If you’re hiking to a peak, that’s a great spot to sit & think for awhile, but don’t forget to stop along the trail to take it in.
Along the way….
Though meditation is often seen as “clearing your head” or “thinking about nothing,” that’s not entirely true.
The goal isn’t to empty your mind of thoughts (though one could argue that some people would have an easier time of this than others).
Rather, the goal is to learn how to gain control of your thoughts & thought processes so they aren’t the boss of you – and to help you be the boss of them.
Invariably, as you move along the trail, thoughts will pop into your head. Whether it’s about work stress, relationship stress, a bill that’s due – something will creep up on you that you’re not “supposed” to think about.
And that’s okay.
You don’t have to stifle it & push it out of your head.
Let it sit, acknowledge it, then turn your focus back towards the sounds & sensations around you.
It’s that simple
Meditation doesn’t have to be complex, off-putting or awkward.
It can be as simple as hitting your favorite trail, burning some stress & learning to focus on the various sensations in the present moment.
No lotus, incense-burning or man-buns necessary.