Henry David Thoreau & Walking Meditation
Henry David Thoreau is, perhaps, the most individualistic of the American Transcendentalists. He asked us to consider what we have learned that is useful as we travel our own “stream of life.” He cautions us not to regret when we die that we “had not lived.” He advised us to stop hurrying about, and consider slowing down. This is a good mindfulness path. Major contributions he made to the art and skill of walking meditation have often be forgotten, So here, I will refresh our memories about what this sage taught us. See the list below and try your best to practice this way the next time you do walking meditation in nature.
- When you walk just saunter at will, and be the nature you are beholding. Walk and move about without any conscious destination in mind. Be there with mindful enjoyment!
- Probably influenced by Eastern thought on this topic, Thoreau advised us to walk with aware joy, then at some point turn around and roughly retrace your steps back to where you began.
- When walking, do your best to free yourself from “worldly engagements.” Allow the sun’s light, the windy air, stars and moon to enter your body.
- Allow nature’s “subtle magnetism” to embrace you. See if you notice an inner felt sense of being “joyous and serene.”
- In many ways nature is a sacred place (santum santorum). Allow yourself to be where good things are “wild and free.”
- Walking meditation in a natural setting can lead us to eventual liberation from daily suffering and fears. It is a healing practice.
- He recognized nature as our mothers. Thoreau wanted us to rest and heal in the sun’s “informing light.”
- To get the most out of walking meditation, one must stay in the present “of this moment.”
- Intentionally bathe yourself in happy silence. Allow, allow, allow the healing power of nature to enter our mind-heart-body of being.
- Practice more, and enjoy yourself more.
For more information refer to Thoreau, H. D. (1937, 1965 Edn.). (Edited by B. Atkinson). Walden and Other Writings...New York: Modern Library, pp. 597-634.
Anthony R. Quintiliani, PhD., LADC
From the Eleanor R. Liebman Center for Secular Meditation in Monkton, Vermont
Author of Mindful Happiness