Walking in natural places affects us differently than moving through man-made environs. A forest or meadow untouched by human design plugs into something uncomplicated in the mind and heart. They speak to us, not in words or ideas, but by reflecting something in us we’ve forgotten: Simple presence. They invite mindfulness—simply being aware, without thinking, planning or worry. They cue us to look and see differently—with openness, wonder, with the curiosity of a child. Encountering a tree, if we’re mindful, we perceive its essence, its unselfconscious tree-ness. It’s not trying to please us, and isn’t wishing it was somewhere else, doing something else. Each tree, hill, weed and bumblebee, being just what it is, can be a mentor, guiding us to discover our own essential nature: Just movement, breath and awareness. Mindfully walking, we’re simply being what we are, doing what we’re doing, noticing what we notice.
Walking In Nature is an excerpt from my husband Douglas Baker’s upcoming book on mindfulness and walking meditation.