Depending on what day of the week, and what time of day you head out for a meditation walk, you’ll either have the trails to yourself, or you’ll have plenty of others around you – dog walkers, trail runners, families with kids, boy scout troops, you-name-it. To keep to yourself, yet acknowledge the presence of others is a balancing act. Over the years I have learned that greeting others with a “hi” invites additional conversation; yet an obscure “hey” is friendly enough and starts and ends the conversation solely on that word. If you’re walking with someone, have an agreed upon place that the silence starts headed out (e.g., trail head); and, an agreed upon place that it ends heading back (e.g., a picnic area with tables for journaling). Since you’ll want to set intention beforehand and journal afterwards, you’ll need to include those activities within the bookends of your silence as well.
Over the years, I have learned that what I wear can unintentionally encourage interactions. Wearing my SPCA of Wake County sweatshirt serves as an open invitation for all dog walkers to strike up a conversation and allow Fido and Rover to meander into petting range. So be aware of any t-shirts or sweatshirts you have that might be considered “conversation starters.” Never-the-less, I can still recall two times that I chose to interrupt my meditation walk to fully embrace what was happening around me (after all, it is about being in the “here and now”). The first time was to verbally share the wonder of a herd of deer that were wandering in the nearby woods, so I joined in the excited verbal commentary of fellow hikers. The second time was in passing a man and his dog, and at the exact moment of passing his rather large, rather majestic-looking dog let out a burp that resonated through the nearby forest. I was fully consumed by laughter, and the need to relate the story of my cat who of late had taken up sighing like a teenager.
Keeping the silence on a crowded trail day can be hard work, since we’re so accustom to small talk and saying “hi.” But, without keeping the intent and focus on the silence of your meditation walk, your much coveted time for contemplation and restoration, will quickly morph into merely a walk in the woods – still a nice outing, but with very different results.
Posted in Everyday spiritual practices, Meditation walking
Tagged clothing, Leslie Gernon, meditation, movement, nature, NC, outdoors, people, pets, Raleigh, silence, spirituality, walk
Squirrels have so much to teach us. How not to move in a straight line, but rather, how to be unpredictable, serpentine, random. How to chase others with pure abandon. How to be at play – always! And, how to go for fast food – bird feeders.
Think of the angst we’ve felt, and wars we’ve waged against squirrels. Seeds “guaranteed” to be tasty only to birds. “Squirrel-proof” bird feeders with new designs each year that are more effective. Just the fact that we’ve named them bird feeders – as if we could declare that the natural world should behave according to our birds-only rules. And, how many of us go batty when we see a squirrel – knocking on windows, or shouting out doors in a short-lived attempt to scare them off?
So, here’s another way to view the bird feeder wars. Shift your labels, shift your thoughts. You have a critter feeder. Along with the squirrels that you feed, you hope that some birds will also get fed. When a squirrel appears, commit to sitting down for at least fifteen minutes to watch his antics with full focus. At the end, list the 37 different ways that squirrels can hang from feeders, the techniques used to move a feeder closer to the deck railing for improved access, and which squirrels are all-you-can-eat pig eaters and which are one-seed-at-a-time contemplative eaters. And, I’m betting that you’ll have more squirrel laughs, than bird laughs (although birds tend to get more ooh-ahhs).
When squirrels no longer bother you, when you can accept that they’re doing exactly what they do best (“easy food”), when you can laugh at and appreciate their antics you will have learned much about acceptance, non-judgment and being unbotherable.
This I know for sure about my critter feeder. The usual pattern of 3 birds eating and 2 queued on the deck railing gets preempted by the red-headed woodpecker; and, the woodpecker gets preempted by the squirrel.
Posted in Everyday spiritual practices
Tagged acceptance, bird feeder, Leslie Gernon, nature, NC, non-judgment, outdoors, Raleigh, spirituality, squirrel, unbotherable
Your meditation walk is to immerse yourself fully in the natural world while taking a (brief) sabbatical from the social world. This means, taking your cell phone with you but having it in the “silence all” answering mode – not vibrate, not beep, not low volume ringing – so that your phone’s silence mode maps to your silence mode.
Why have it with you at all? Emergency only – having it on provides a GPS locator to where you’re at. Tuck it away in your backpack or fanny pack; or, at a minimum a pocket. You will discover that the world can survive without you during this time; and, likewise, you can survive without the world as well. In fact, it is this pause from all of the technology and communications of the world that allows you to be fully present in the here and now.
During the summer months, depending on where you walk, you’ll find that the fully-leafed-out trees conspire to provide this sabbatical – it’s rare to have any reception bars to either make or receive calls. Texting, which takes less bandwidth, can sometimes get through, but communication of any sort (texting, calling) is all part of the sabbatical. As they say “just give it a rest!” On some of my walks, I use the ‘Holding the Silence’ step to focus on the here and now through limited picture taking. During this stage, I hike with unfocused eyes and with the challenge to take three photos (no more, no less) of objects in my natural surrounding that tug at my attention – through their uniqueness or color or shape. For this, I typically use my cell phone camera – but calls in or out are still abide by the silence. More about the practice of “photo silences” in a future blog.
This is time for you, and you alone.
Posted in Everyday spiritual practices, Meditation walking
Tagged cell phone, Leslie Gernon, meditation, movement, nature, NC, outdoors, photography, Raleigh, silence, spirituality, walk