ESSAY | NATURE | MEDITATION
Nature and Walking Meditation
How Walking Meditation keeps me connected to Nature and the Seasons
It may come as no surprise to many who’ve read my work since I joined Medium in April of this year — my favorite season of the year is Autumn, followed by Winter, then Spring, and with Summer being my least favorite of all. Some would say, oh it must have something to do with the temperatures during these seasons, and yes, some of that is true, but not all. The real reason Autumn is my favorite and Summer is my least favorite has to do with Nature. Let’s have a look at each season from a natural world perspective and how I link walking meditation to nature. Perhaps this will help you understand my choice better. I’m going to go in reverse from least favorite to favorite.
It’s hot, humid, and sluggish in Oklahoma (it was similar in my beloved state of Virginia). Although it may be lush and green, usually from late Spring showers, it doesn’t stay that way. It is August right now and the grasses, trees, shrubbery and gardens are all begging for rain. And when the rain does come, it’s in the form of heavy rain showers accompanied with lightning strikes and loud, rolling thunder (Yes, Garth Brooks got that whole rolling thunder correct. I’d never heard anything like it until I moved to OK). All day under the harsh sun life is at a standstill — animals, birds and insects are all seeking shelter, and so am I. I rarely venture out into nature in the summer. I will walk early in the mornings sometimes, but by August’s intense heat, even that is a rarity. And I can tell in my own soul how disconnected I am to nature during the summer. Fresh fruits and vegetables, for me, is Summer’s only saving grace.
I generally tolerate Spring. My major dislike for this season is the outdated system of setting the clocks ahead an hour. This always messes with my internal clock. When my health was in better shape, I did enjoy gardening. I loved tilling the earth and the wonderful smells that would induce. I loved putting my hands into the deep, rich dirt as I planted vegetable and flowers, and I walked around barefoot to connect more with nature. I still walk around barefoot outside in the Spring as I watch the animals, birds and insects spring to life. I do a lot more walking in the Spring too and practice walking meditation. Not even the gentle rain showers will put me off from being outside. You’d almost think that Spring is my favorite time of the year, but no. I do enjoy seeing nature awaken all around me, but in Oklahoma, Spring can sometimes be a tricky season — winter either lingers too long or summer rushes in too soon. April is often our only true month of Spring.
And this brings me to why Winter is usually my second favorite season. We rarely get snow here in Oklahoma. If we get much wintry weather, it is usually ice storms, but in recent years, even those are rare. The temperatures hoover in the 40s and 30s for most of Winter, but all of nature is still and quiet. I can also take my walks up until around January when the temperatures may dip into the 20s and teens, and then start the walks back up again in mid-to-late February when the temperatures settle back into the 30s. I love the chilly, misty mornings with near-silence. I may hear a raven or crow, or some other birds of prey in those early mornings. And I love that darkness comes so early — usually around five in the evenings. I also love how barren nature is around me. The Winter months are my best months for contemplative meditation and I tend to get a lot of writing done.
And finally, we come to my favorite season of all seasons. From late September to mid-December, my soul comes alive. The clocks go back to normal and so does my internal rhythm. During Autumn, I feel the most connected to nature. I used to love all the preparations that came with the harvest — canning and freezing fresh vegetables and fruit, and prepping the gardens for the upcoming spring — now I visit others who still do these things in Autumn. My olfactory sense goes into overdrive during this season too — the scent of pumpkin and apples mixed with cinnamon, nutmeg, and cardamon all tease me as I prepare pumpkin bread and pies, stewed apples, pies and cider. However, my favorite scent is that of decaying leaves and vegetation from the left over garden. This is also the only season where I still honor the old gods and my ancestors, as I spend more time outside under full moons, dancing and leaving feasts for them. My walking meditations also increase as I take longer walks to nearby parks and streams. And I love watching the birds and animals prepare for winter. For me, Autumn is about bounty, death and dying. I do not see death and dying as bad things because I know they are part of the cycle toward rebirth in the Spring.
What is walking meditation?
I get asked this question a lot. I discovered walking meditation through some of Thich Nhat Hanh’s teachings. Walking Meditation is an extension of Mindfulness. To be mindfully aware of everything around you as you walk. I do this through observation using all of my senses. As I walk, I do so in silence — no music in my ears, no chatter with walking partners, and no repeating of mantras. I consciously take notice of scents, sounds, watching the wild life around me, touching bark and flowers, and occasionally plucking fruit from trees to nibble on or sucking on honeysuckles. I often find gifts from Nature too — feathers, pine cones, unusual rocks, wild flowers to press, etc. All of this keeps me connected to Mother Nature.
I hope this has given you all some more insight into how I view the seasons and how my walking meditations are my true connection to nature these days since my health has declined. I am still that crazy lady who dances in the rain, splashes in rain puddles, walks barefoot in the fields and hugs trees to hear them breathing. In all seasons, I put out food for the wild life around me, and the stray cats and dogs. I do all of these things to honor my own spirit, wild life and Mother Earth.
©2020 Lori Carlson. All Rights Reserved.
This beautiful mess is in response to Diana C.’s prompt All Things Nature:
Lori Carlson writes poetry, fiction, articles, creative non-fiction and personal essays. Most of her topics are centered around Relationships, Spirituality, Nature, Life Lessons, Mental Health, and the LGBTQ+ community. In addition to writing for Know Thyself, Heal Thyself, Lori writes for nineteen other publications here on Medium. Check out her personal Medium blog — Ravyne’s Nest.