Friday, March 6, 2015

Walking Spirituality

There are two things that are close to my heart right now.  Walking and Spirituality.  The two have become intertwined for me.  A large part of that is because a friend gave me a book called Walking Meditation by Nguyen Anh-Huong and Thich Nhat Hanh.  Another reason why walking and spirituality are woven together for me is because I have witnessed healing to my husband's heart and soul with his nature walks.  He found a connection to The Other (God, Spirit) that I soon started to admire and desire for myself.

I have always enjoyed going for walks, and hit a peak a few years back when I went for a 2-mile walk everyday before any daily obligations or activities.  I found a nice path where I could be safe and enjoy the scenery and the antics of my dog tugging at his leash to chase ground squirrels.  When my husband and I married and moved out of my hometown, I lost my path (physically and spiritually) and had a difficult time finding one I was comfortable with in both aspects.  Also, it seemed like every time I started to walk, my body would rebel.  I have bursitis in both of my knees and the hills had a negative effect on them, and not walking caused me to become a more negative person.  Finally, my husband came home with a brilliant idea.  Every day he goes out past an abandoned fort.  He suggested that I walk around the fort.  I started a little over a week ago to walk around the fort on a daily basis.  I have noticed not only more energy and an overall more positive feeling, but I've begun to feel that connection I so admired.

"Peace is every step.
An overcast early Spring day on the abandoned Fort
The shining red sun is my heart.
Each flower smiles with me.
How green, how fresh all that grows.
How cool the wind blows.
Peace is every step.
It turns the endless path to joy."
~Tinh Thuy
(as quoted in Walking Meditation, 2006, p. 1)

Research has shown that being outdoors has significant health benefits.  TIME Magazine recently published an article that speaks about this.  Among the reasons for spending time outdoors is healing and mood improvement.  Mother Nature Network published an article about the benefits of walking.  Sunlight helps our bodies to regulate.  There is a growing belief in the mind-body-spirit connection.  I am one of those who believe in this connection.  I also believe that we have a connection with the world around us.  When we are in a stress-filled work environment, we generally become stressed and unhealthy.  When we are in a tranquil natural environment, we generally become tranquil and healthier.

We can work to boost this effect in our lives by being mindful of the environment around us.  If you are at work, put up a picture of a nature scene that will bring your mind to a relaxed state.  Become aware of your breathing and posture.  In a counseling class I learned a basic grounding technique that can help us to become aware of our breath and posture.  Sit in your chair with your feet flat on the ground and hands rested on your lap.  Sit up straight and close your eyes.  Slowly begin to focus your attention on the various parts of your body, starting at your feet.  Feel the connection to the floor, relax your ankles, flexing and rotating them.  Continue to move up your legs, into your torso, arms, and neck, flexing and rotating your joints.  All the while, breathe deeply.  When you get to your neck, finish with envisioning that tranquil nature scene that you love, open yourself up to that tranquility, accept it as your own.   In one of my Social Work internships, I learned another grounding technique that involves nature.  It is similar; stand with one hand on a tree, the other on your heart.  Become mindful of your heart beat and your connection to the ground, your connection to the tree.  Concentrate on it, be silent, and breathe deeply, be conscious of nature around you, the sounds and smells.  When we do small things like this to take a break from the hubbub, we are taking an active part in becoming healthier, less stressed.

Spirituality.  I recently read an article on the Mother Nature Network website about spirituality in nature.  A rabbi in Colorado started conducting ceremonies and sabbath meetings outside.  In the end of the article she is quoted as saying, “You sit quietly at an overlook or beside a Ponderosa pine, and it’s easy to experience a connection to something greater than yourself" (as quoted by MNN, 2007).  When we become open to The Other, all the things that we deal with on a day-to-day basis becomes a lot smaller.  Whether your belief is in a specific deity or an energy that moves in and through all of nature, there is Something Other than ourselves at work.  What is your favorite aspect of nature?  The caress of the breeze on your skin or tickling through your hair?  Is it the first flower of Spring or the vibrant Autumn colors?  Maybe all you desire is a chair on a beach in the sunshine, looking out at the blue sea.  Whatever it is, stop and observe, first as yourself being part of nature around you, then as yourself being separate, acknowledge that we are all connected, acknowledge that you are a vital part of all of nature. Acknowledge that all around you, life continues as the most beautiful aspect of being.

I am getting ready to go on my daily walk.  I like to watch the birds flirt with one another through song and flight.  I like to notice the holes where the gophers are creating their habitats and the new buds on the trees that promise warmer weather.  I like a specific tree, a soaring pine in the middle of the courtyard with enormous sap-covered pinecones.  She is the one that I stop at to do grounding exercises.  I like to thank her for her part in the circle of life, for allowing me to take a pinecone, for being a symbol of strength and stability.  It is this little action, coupled with a walk in nature, that

The enormous pinecone.  
brings me peace.  I feel the connection with The Other and know that all is well, at the heart of it all, everything will work out.

Light & Love

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