I’ve always loved walking in nature, but until this year, this has mainly been limited to holidays (which I used to take a lot of!) and very occasional weekends in Singapore.
When COVID struck and lockdown began early this year, I needed an outlet to release my pent up frustration and a remedy for my cabin fever.
I turned to walking around my neighbourhood twice a day – first thing in the morning and in the evening. During the weekends, I would go for longer walks in different nature reserves, parks and park connectors.
At the beginning, the main objective was simply to get out of the house and to ‘escape’ into nature. Quite quickly, I started to realise the calming effect that these daily rambles had on me. It was then that I thought that I might be able to harness more meditative effects of these walks by becoming a lot more mindful, and to really just focus on the ‘now’ as I moved. That is, instead of crowding my mind with all kinds of thoughts and plans, I started tuning my senses towards the details of the surroundings – the patterns on the trunks and leaves of trees, the varied sounds made by different species of birds and insects, the feel of wind against my skin, the smell of nature, the rhythm of my gait. Whenever I got interrupted by a thought, I would try to let it pass as soon as possible and to refocus my attention on the immediate present.
6 months past my first mindful walking experiment, I definitely feel that my senses have grown a lot more acute. This has, in turn, made each walk more enjoyable and interesting because I frequently spot something new or chance upon unexpected beauty – a newly blossoming tree, an exotic bird, beautiful cloud formations – all of which immediately brightens up my day.
The cultivation of a deeper level of mind and body connection through walking meditation has greatly benefited my yoga practice, as I have made the same transition from mechanic to embodied movement on the yoga mat. In the past, I had often found my thoughts wandering every now and then during a Mysore practice, especially when I practised alone and not in the studio. Now, I am able to maintain a steady mind and to stay fully concentrated on my breath, asana and drishti throughout the practice. Coupled with that comes the similar joy of constant discovery in every practice despite going through the same sequence.