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Awareness walks

Awareness walks

Awareness walks can have many intentions and beneficial effects. I have seen them presented as an exercise in mindfulness, or a ‘nature cure’ to improve your mental health. Some philosophers (such as Søren Kierkegaard) and writers (such as Rebecca Solnit) find walking a way of loosening thoughts and accessing their deep mind. Others find that taking a contemplative walk in nature can help them appreciate God’s Creation. I especially like the idea of taking an awareness walk as a Lectio of Nature, in which we can ‘read’ nature to become aware of God’s presence.

This awareness walk aims to awaken your senses and intuition as you pay attention to your surroundings, how you move through them, and particular elements within them.

It has elements of many of the above. It includes nature, in all its manifestations as animal, vegetable and mineral. It also includes human beings (we are part of nature after all) and the things that we have made and built and perhaps broken. It requires an openness to all things, how God might be in them, how we respond to them, identify with them, are drawn to or repulsed by them.

Its purpose is not to relax you, but rather to teach and form you, recreate and nourish you, challenge and unsettle you, lead you into appreciation of the small wonder as well as the grand, and bring you into yourself and into the present moment.

You can take an awareness walk in any place, urban or rural, and at any time, so long as it is safe. It is best not to be limited by time or space. The walk is not exercise, and it is not a task or route to be completed. Give yourself uncluttered time. Don’t be in a hurry, but be guided by the Spirit, go with the flow. Don’t force anything but let all things come to you. Give everything the time it needs to speak to you and yourself the time you need to reflect.

It is better to walk alone. If you are part of a group, don’t interact during the walk, but come together afterwards to share your experiences.

Before you leave the house, or before you start walking, spend a few moments to calm yourself, focusing on your breathing. Walk with intention and attention. I suggest you walk mostly in silence, but you may feel the need to respond verbally at times – laughing, recoiling, gasping, whooping.

These two leaflets provide some guidance as you walk. They are basically the same, differing in the choice of poetry to provide company and focus. Download the pdf and print double-sided flipping on the short edge. Or feel free to adapt them to make your own walk.

The leaflets include space to note your responses during the walk, or you may choose to take some drawing materials. I suggest that you do not take a camera, which limits your point of view to a rectangle, and hence places a boundary around your awareness and mediates your response. And if the camera is a phone, it is likely to distract you in other ways.

Enjoy your walk!