As I have discovered in my own life, walking in nature as a regular practice has brought untold benefits to my well-being, to my happiness and to my own personal effectiveness.
Through my work as Walking Coach, I have seen similar results with clients.
However, there is an important difference between walking and talking in nature (which is great in itself) and consciously harnessing the walking and nature experience to achieve transformation or healing.
Coaching on a walk - consciously Taken!
In discussion about this, one of my teachers asked me to describe my coaching work.
I explained: When clients work with me, we venture out into the natural outdoors rather than remain cooped up in a room or office.
Why? Because natural, wild, green spaces are where we are at our most human.
It’s where people can really meet themselves at their most authentic and real. It’s where they get to heal old wounds. It’s where they get to feel like they’re complete.
It’s where they become aware that the natural wilderness with all its mystery, beauty and expansiveness is in fact a mirror for the inner workings of their mind.
It’s where they open up to the understanding that all of life embraces us. It accepts us - just as we are - without judgment. So we can learn to accept ourselves – and others. It’s peace giving and empowering, all at the same time.
And then there’s the walking – that glorious sense of movement, travel, freedom and ease. A whole-istic sense of well-being comes over us when we walk: the appreciation, exploration and enjoyment of the fresh air and the ever-changing landscape, bringing with it the discovery of a clear sense of presence, power, balance and strength – physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually.
As we talked further, my teacher reflected back to me that this work would seem to mirror the principles of a Medicine Walk.
That hadn’t yet occurred to me. So I investigated.
And I realized she was right.
conscious Walking in Ancient Traditions
The Medicine Walk is almost universal in its cultural origins and is one of the oldest of human spiritual practices. And nowadays it has taken on a more contemporary significance, thanks to the expanding field of eco-psychology, as well as the growing desire felt by many to re-connect with a more meaningful and authentic way of life.
(Explanation: ‘medicine’, here, refers to the vital power or force that is inherent in Nature itself and to the personal power within oneself which can enable one to become more whole or complete.)
Similarly, the walking experience that I offer my clients is not only a means of connecting to nature, but also a means of connecting to their own sources of innate wisdom and support as they face a major transition or as part of a healing or renewal.
So, what happens on a 'conscious' walk?
Essentially, you venture forth, with a clear intention in your heart, into what’s known as the liminal space, or the ‘in between’. This means leaving behind the world of the known to wander into the unknown territory of your life’s journey, in which you allow the experience of being in direct contact with Nature to reflect wisdom and guidance back at you, in response to whatever question you are holding.
In so doing, you let the mystery unfold as Nature reveals the insights and gifts you require.
Finally, you make your return – ready to give an account of this very personal and often pivotal experience. The story of your walk, and the way that is told, can yield incredibly rich insight as you then work with the question you held from the outset.
This is where working with a coach with experience in this field can be extremely helpful. He / she will guide your process of inquiry, deepening your insights, allowing the forces of Nature to inform you, then supporting you to make choices and take action, based on who you truly are - not the person you think you should be.
The Self-Coached 'Conscious' Walk
If you do this without a coach, you have two options. You can do the walk alone, and thereafter it can help to have your story heard by others who are able to make observations and ask great questions that will raise your awareness and help you arrive at a new level of meaning.
Alternatively, you can record your telling of the story, listen to it then re-listen to it a little later. You will hear new information on each telling.
Here are some tips for taking a self-coached, 'conscious' walk:
- Be intentional about your walk by being clear at the outset about the question you want to explore;
- Once you have your question, put it in your back pocket and set it free from your conscious mind;
- Choose a familiar place to take your walk so that you can wander aimlessly and unrestricted without getting lost;
- It almost goes without saying: your walk should be in a natural green space, perhaps near water too – the more undisturbed the better;
- You should be alone and unaccompanied. Also try to walk in an area where there are few people;
- Take your walk mindfully. Move slowly and be fully present and attuned to your experience;
- Allow yourself to be drawn to whatever captures your attention and just trust that you are exactly where you’re meant to be in that moment;
- Hold a spirit of fascination and curiosity about everything; notice what thoughts surface themselves ……… but do not analyse!
- Show respect for the land where you are walking: remember it is Nature, just as you are. Respecting nature, means respecting yourself;
- Make sure you do your reflections on your walk within 24 hours of returning, and while it’s still fresh, otherwise you may lose the juiciest insights.
If this post has awakened some questions in you, and you are curious about doing some more Conscious Walking work of your own with the help of an experienced Walking Coach, contact us now for an exploratory chat!