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  • Writer's pictureSteve Watts

Conscious walking … in 2020

Updated: Jan 7, 2020

What better way to start the New Year than to commit to walking more and, building on my previous post about 'movement being medicine' for the body and the soul, below is some guidance from the Walking Coach and some locations to try.

If anybody was in any doubt about the benefits of walking then the Walking Coach serves to remind us that walking is beneficial 'because natural, wild, green spaces are where we are at our most human. It’s where people can really meet themselves at their most authentic and real. It’s where they get to heal old wounds. It’s where they get to feel like they’re complete. It’s where they become aware that the natural wilderness with all its mystery, beauty and expansiveness is in fact a mirror for the inner workings of their mind. It’s where they open up to the understanding that all of life embraces us. It accepts us - just as we are - without judgment. So we can learn to accept ourselves – and others. It’s peace giving and empowering, all at the same time … And then there’s the walking – that glorious sense of movement, travel, freedom and ease. A whole-istic sense of well-being comes over us when we walk: the appreciation, exploration and enjoyment of the fresh air and the ever-changing landscape, bringing with it the discovery of a clear sense of presence, power, balance and strength – physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually.'

As the Walking Coach explains, in conscious walking you set out 'with a clear intention in your heart, into what’s known as the liminal space, or the ‘in between’. This means leaving behind the world of the known to wander into the unknown territory of your life’s journey, in which you allow the experience of being in direct contact with Nature to reflect wisdom and guidance back at you, in response to whatever question you are holding.' One way to do this would be to follow the ten guiding principles below. For me as I set out on this New Year's Eve the question I want to explore is what type of coaching business do I want to run? Having established the question it is now placed in my back pocket (this can be done either literally or metaphorically) and I will let nature take care of the rest:

1. Be intentional about your walk by being clear at the outset about the question you want to explore.

2. Once you have your question, put it in your back pocket and set it free from your conscious mind.

3. Choose a familiar place to take your walk so that you can wander aimlessly and unrestricted without getting lost.

4. It almost goes without saying: your walk should be in a natural green space, perhaps near water too – the more undisturbed the better.

5. Ideally you should be alone and unaccompanied. Also try to walk in an area where there are few people. Even so, walking with a companion(s) is safer and more enjoyable, as long as you agree to silence for at least part of the walk.

6. Take your walk mindfully. Move slowly and be fully present and attuned to your experience.

7. Allow yourself to be drawn to whatever captures your attention and just trust that you are exactly where you’re meant to be in that moment.

8. Hold a spirit of fascination and curiosity about everything; notice what thoughts surface themselves ……… but do not analyse!

9. Show respect for the land where you are walking: remember it is Nature, just as you are. Respecting nature means respecting yourself.

10. Make sure you do your reflections on your walk in your journal within 24 hours of returning, and while it’s still fresh, otherwise you may lose the juiciest insights.

I write this as I prepare to visit the Scottish Borders and family for New Year 2020 and during my stay I will visit many outstanding locations, all ideal for conscious walking. These range from the wide open 'lawless' fells of the Debatable Lands in the West, to the gentler Tweed Valley at Coldstream and then on to the Tweed Estuary, beaches and Elizabethan Walls of Berwick upon Tweed in the East.

There can be fewer more imposing sights in Scotland than the English-defying Hermitage Castle (above) at the heart of the Debatable Lands, that lawless stretch between the English and Scottish Borders. Not only is it the setting of Mary Queen of Scots romantic (not to mention near fatal) dash from Jedburgh to see her lover, Earl Bothwell, it is also located within the wild and open spaces of Roxburghshire, ideal for blowing away the cobwebs on a bright January morning.

My intention is to follow the ten principles outlined above and record my experiences in my journal, as highlighted in point 10.

The River Tweed, famous for its salmon fishing, flows through the Borders from its source in the Lowther Hills eastwards to Berwick upon Tweed passing the home of Sir Walter Scott at Abbotsford and the Eildon Hills at Melrose (see above).

I hope that you too will be able to find time to walk in January and make it a regular habit throughout 2020. If you already walk regularly then I hope that you will be able to maintain it throughout the year, experiencing all the seasons as they come and go.

Berwick upon Tweed, where I was born, is a fortified Elizabethan town with extensive town walls in excellent condition. These walls (above) provide a prefect circular walk and take in aspects of the coast, the river, the estuary and many features of the town, with of course coffee shops for a quick warm up and rest on a cold winter's day.

Upon returning from your walk it is important that you share the experience and return to the question in your back pocket. If you were accompanied by somebody else then there is an ideal opportunity to share the experience during the walk and afterwards; if you were on your own then you can record your experiences and reflections and play them back to yourself and others for their perceptions; and of course you should definitely write down your experiences as a way of capturing your thoughts and reflecting upon them as they unfold on the page. As Terri, a member of my writing group, commented about the process of journal writing clarity 'just seemed to happen as I was writing, so the writing and the thought occurred at the same time.'

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