Environmental philosopher and Sierra Club co-founder John Muir once said, “In every walk with nature, one receives far more than he seeks”.
Those words ring profoundly true. Unfortunately, with our societal norms of packed schedules and deadlines, not everyone gets to experience what Muir so passionately conveyed.
My early twenties were tumultuous for a plethora of reasons. I had become detached from the natural world which had been my haven as a child. At twenty-three I was struck head-on by a drunk driver. I was med-flighted to Boston where an incredible team of surgeons were able to save my leg from possible amputation. The initial stages of healing and learning to walk again were often dark. Modern medicine saved me. Yet, as time passed, it was the practice of deep meditation and my immersive reconnection with nature that truly elevated me. The hopelessness and anxiety I felt when I realized my disability was permanent, turned into a new appreciation for the things I once took for granted.
What is it about the extraordinary calm that one experiences while in the forest, beside the ocean, or atop a mountain? It’s as if the sound of the waves or the silence of the trees allow the stream of consciousness to slow down and the static of the days events that tend to draw one further from what is truly important- to simply take pause.
Cape Cod is such a beautiful place and I’ve always been drawn to Eagle Pond in Cotuit. I like to start my walking meditation with some basic cleansing breaths. My intention is always the same- to be completely present. By finding a natural, comfortable pace and a soft gaze forward, it allows me to bring my awareness to the dirt beneath my feet, the ethereal glow of the sunlight filtering through the trees and the sounds of the wind. Soon after, I bring my attention to my steady heartbeat and breathing. I imagine that they are part of the symphony of sights, feelings and sounds surrounding me. After ten or fifteen minutes, my thoughts tend to slow to a distant hum. This is where I find peace. Everytime.
Mindfulness can be effortless in the wilderness. Studies show a decrease of brain activity in the pain matrix while in this state of awareness.With frequent practice- comes the ability to manage pain more effectively. The relaxation response invoked by meditation helps to strengthen the immune system, heart, and promotes longevity of cognitive functioning. In Japan, the practice of forest bathing (Shinrin-Yoku) has been implemented not only as a personal daily practice to ease anxiety, but as a stress prevention strategy in corporate culture as well. This east-to-west practice is proving to be an incredible resource for those seeking overall wellness, as is the implementation of reiki as an alternative and complementary modality.
I invite you to introduce the practice of meditation in whatever natural setting serves you, as part of your self-care repertoire. I recommend “A Guide to Walking Meditation” by Thich Nhat Hanh. However, simply stepping outside, closing your eyes, and centering yourself for a delicate few... is a wonderful place to start.
Erin Peterson is a Reiki Master from Cape Cod who offers private sessions, guided meditation groups, chakra healing, blissful births, end of life transitions, workshops and more. She promotes practicality in spirituality and hopes to make these things accessible to those who are seeking. www.erinpetersonreiki.com