Depending on what day of the week, and what time of day you head out for a meditation walk, you’ll either have the trails to yourself, or you’ll have plenty of others around you – dog walkers, trail runners, families with kids, boy scout troops, you-name-it. To keep to yourself, yet acknowledge the presence of others is a balancing act. Over the years I have learned that greeting others with a “hi” invites additional conversation; yet an obscure “hey” is friendly enough and starts and ends the conversation solely on that word. If you’re walking with someone, have an agreed upon place that the silence starts headed out (e.g., trail head); and, an agreed upon place that it ends heading back (e.g., a picnic area with tables for journaling). Since you’ll want to set intention beforehand and journal afterwards, you’ll need to include those activities within the bookends of your silence as well.
Over the years, I have learned that what I wear can unintentionally encourage interactions. Wearing my SPCA of Wake County sweatshirt serves as an open invitation for all dog walkers to strike up a conversation and allow Fido and Rover to meander into petting range. So be aware of any t-shirts or sweatshirts you have that might be considered “conversation starters.” Never-the-less, I can still recall two times that I chose to interrupt my meditation walk to fully embrace what was happening around me (after all, it is about being in the “here and now”). The first time was to verbally share the wonder of a herd of deer that were wandering in the nearby woods, so I joined in the excited verbal commentary of fellow hikers. The second time was in passing a man and his dog, and at the exact moment of passing his rather large, rather majestic-looking dog let out a burp that resonated through the nearby forest. I was fully consumed by laughter, and the need to relate the story of my cat who of late had taken up sighing like a teenager.
Keeping the silence on a crowded trail day can be hard work, since we’re so accustom to small talk and saying “hi.” But, without keeping the intent and focus on the silence of your meditation walk, your much coveted time for contemplation and restoration, will quickly morph into merely a walk in the woods – still a nice outing, but with very different results.
Leslie Gernon is an outdoor guide (i.e., shinrin-yoku walks, wellness walks, and labyrinth events), counselor