When you think of a walking meditation, you probably think of being alone with your thoughts, quiet contemplation, and frequent stops to just take a deep breath. Mine are something quite different.
I’m a noticer. Go for a walk with me anywhere and you’ll see it. Even in my own neighborhood, I walk along excitedly pointing out plants, animals, clouds, and…ideas. When I have things on my mind, which is always, walking helps me sort it out.
I don’t like to walk alone.
It’s the talking that I need, getting out of the metal loop. I need that the other human that will listen and bounce things back at me.
Yesterday I walked with a friend. We took “the longer route” around the neighborhood. I had things to sort out, conflict that need to be looked at and resolved.
We headed north down the dirt road. I pointed out the place where it floods every time it rains a lot, the kind of mud that you can’t drive through because the tires slip every which way in it when you attempt to climb the driveway. And it reminded me of the track my sons raced at that had that terrible river silt mud that would slip out from under your feet or get so deep it would suck your shoes off.
We met the dogs at the end of the road and I predicted their behavior. The one leaping and barking like she’ll eat you. Rottweilers seem so vicious behind a fence, like Cerberus guarding the gates of hell, until you’re invited inside, and they commence to loving you. The older Australian Shepard runs the length of the fence, chases her tail, runs back, chases again, barking the whole time. The two will get into skirmishes about who is doing a better job and chasing off the intruders, while two goats stand watching and wondering what all the excitement is about.
Making another turn, we find the abandoned razor scooter that has been laying there for several years. I still wonder how it got there. It’s a dirt road full of sandy ruts, not the place some kid would be riding it, accidently leaving it behind.
Dogs bark behind every fence we pass, rural alarm dogs. They warn us that someone is approaching the house, but it’s usually coyotes they are barking at. After a while, every owner knows the different barks. The visitor at the door, delivery truck, large bird, invading dog, coyote, all their barks are distinct. They’ve been doing that job long before surveillance cameras.
We keep walking and talking.
When one part of my brain is busy keeping my feet going in one direction, noticing and identifying all the mundane things around me, another part of me begins to relax and open up. Then I start to talk, ask questions, and listen to answers. My emotions take a slower, more regulated pace so that I can identify them and sort them out, then I can begin to respond instead of react to the things I’m feeling.
It’s a long walking meditation where the good stuff starts to happen.
The same part of me that makes me jump from the car screaming “Real prairie dogs!” is the same part that makes me scream, “You’re not the boss of me!” and “This is the worst day ever!”
Most people don’t tell you to tone your joyous reactions down. Some do, trust me. I’ve heard them. “You’re making us look bad, Michelle. Can’t you settle down?” “Try not to be too enthusiastic. It’s hard to keep up.” They are few and far between, but I know they are still out there. I see them at the grocery store when my sons and I are getting loud about the cost of an item or that there are no Vege Tables (more like Vege Stacks, my son says).
Almost anyone will tell you tone down your anger, frustration, or sadness.
They don’t want to see that part of you. And why is that? Why do we label one emotion as good and the other as bad? Why can’t I say, “I’m sad today and the whole world sucks ass!” without someone saying, “Don’t act like that!”?
I feel like I’ve spent my whole life being told that some emotions are negative and should be avoided. The result of that has been me not knowing what to do with those emotions. Like a small child with no place for the big emotions to go, I end up having a tantrum, yelling, and looking for ways to hurt others the same way I’m hurting.
“I need attention! Help me with this feeling!” I feel myself yelling in my head. What I get in return is a time-out. I’m left alone to deal with those feelings, and nothing gets resolved. I only hurt in quiet or lash out in anger for being a human being.
I don’t blame the people around me for doing it. We don’t know any other way. This is the way we raise our children, and this is the adult behavior we get from it. You end up being good at being alone with your “bad” feelings, avoid them, or start using coping mechanisms to deal with it. None of them are healthy.
Raising my own children through Peaceful Parenting methods (and I can hear people that know me laughing at ME using the word “peaceful”) helped me notice where I lacked in relating to other people. Finding Radical Unschooling, helped me learn new ways of learning. Both approaches to raising children have changed how I develop my adult relationships.
Michelle, you’re doing it again. What does this have to do with going for a walk with a friend?
Everything! Walking with my family is the way we made time and space for the big emotions that lead to the deep conversations and connections. The longer and easier the walk the better. Now that my children are grown and on their own, I’m more focused on my adult relationships and that’s where the walking meditation comes in.
I’ve been doing it for years, but this past weekend is when I noticed the connection. We had a lot on our minds to talk about but never found the time. We’re always doing something or going somewhere. I instinctively asked for a long walk and while we were walking, it dawned on me what was happening and now I can use the process deliberately.
When I ask a friend to go hiking with me, I’m asking them to make time and space for connection. I’m saying, “Let’s talk. I know we all have things we need to get off our minds.” It’s better than a cup of coffee or a few beers. It’s focused “us” time with a bonus of exercise!
Hot Tip: If there’s some reason you can’t walk; weather, health, etc., try a driving tour. It works the same way.