The lime green moss is proof that growth is happening right before my eyes. I catch a pungent whiff of cedar as the crack of a branch alerts me to presence nearby. I glance ahead, alert for a bear. If need be, I can give him a wide berth, unless of course I am confronted by a mama with cubs. But the sound is only a guy on a mountain bike, intersecting the shared trail ahead.
I remind myself to be present. Here, in this moment, without a bear there is only me, the forest, and deep awareness. I find it easy to access mental calmness when I’m immersed in nature, with mindful prompts at every turn.
The opportunity to be mindful is everywhere when I get outside, in the woods, on a trail – even in a city park. When I walk, I pay full attention to the experience of one foot followed by the other, the weight of each heal connecting to hard earth, my feet rolling forward and rising with synchronicity before hitting ground once more. I feel the cool wind on my face as dampness seeps down my collar. I listen like wildlife might, with a titled head. There’s a crunch as my shoes strike gravel; a melody of birdsong, call and response; a babble as the creek rushes past, full of new melt; it draws me into its flow.
I have loved being outdoors since as early as I can remember. The seed was planted by my parents when my sister and I were young. My parents weren’t solely nature lovers, instead they could be described as appreciative of wide-open spaces. As immigrants from the UK they made it their mission for the four of us to enjoy everything about the Canadian outdoors. I recall a winter picnic in deep snow in Northern Manitoba and laughing into the wind on the deck of a ferry in February (when other families were sipping hot chocolate inside).
Being mindfully aware in nature means seeing more clearly in rich depth and detail. The thick weight of yellow pollen on branches, railings, and shallow ponds; an abundance of minute cones on a single hemlock tree; colourful “gratitude rocks” painted by children as shared messages connecting a community. Mindfulness also means I’m aware of others along the trail; I pass with a smile and the requisite safe space.
Walking everyday is not just physically beneficial, it’s nourishment for my mind and spirit. Being outside in nature is a prompt to slow down, to take notice, to witness the richness of the outdoors, even to steer around a bear should we happen to share the trail.
Tips for Enjoying a Mindful Walk:
Set an Intention:
Before you head out set the intention to WALK and NOTICE. Plan phone calls and podcast catch-up another time and be aware of nature around you as you walk.
Mindfulness is being aware and openly curious. Walk with a naturalist’s sense of observation. Be aware of how your energy is impacted by being outdoors.
Take Your Time:
Allow enough time to savor the experience of walking and being outdoors.