Written By Sally Phillips
Ancient wisdom from the east has always laid great emphasis on the connection with our surroundings. According to the famous Hindu scripture the Bhagavad Gita, it is said that our relationship with the environment is the first and most essential level of experience that we encounter. This basically means that if we live in surroundings that are clean, positive and uplifting, it can have a beneficial impact on all other aspects of our daily life.
Scientifically speaking, there have been many research papers which demonstrate the positive effect of spacious landscapes on our mental well being. People who live in hill stations and other remote areas have been found on average to suffer less from issues like anxiety, stress, chronic fatigue syndrome etc. This is because picturesque locations can help trigger the release of ‘serotonin’ (also known as the happy hormone) in our bodies. Serotonin allows for us to feel more calm, happy and therefore supports our spiritual hygiene.
Walking as a means of meditation
While never thought of as a ‘centering activity’ in the west, walking meditation is already a part of many awareness based traditions such as Buddhism, Jainism, Zen. This is primarily because when we walk around in an urban environment, we hardly have any time to quietly reflect on the true purpose of our life. However, meditation master Sri Sri Ravi Shankar says that a simple forest walk can help us immensely in terms of cultivating our inner happiness. He goes on to add that when we are surrounded by trees and animals we are given an all new perspective to what the bigger picture might be all about.
How do I do this?
Walking meditation can be thought of as any other activity that we have to learn and gradually perfect over time. For starters, it would be a good idea to get away for the weekend and go to a place that is surrounded by greenery and nature. The practice of walking meditation itself is quite simple and requires us to focus on the sensations that occur at the base of our feet. We can note the pressure, sensations of tension, pain and keep with this process till the mind begins to quieten down. Additionally, many teachers like Thich Nhat Hahn also recommend using visualization practices like ‘loving kindness’, ‘metta’ while doing our walking.
While connecting with our spiritual heart can be tough due to the pressures of everyday life, many teachers recommend that we routinely (once in 3-6 months or so) get away from the bustle of the city to go on retreat. Retreats allow us to gather our thoughts and feel more connected with our inner being. Not only that, they also give us time to reflect on our life and cultivate deeper states of concentration and mindfulness.