Visiting my dear friend, Katie Strobe, in Oakland I had some free time while she was working at the naturopathic clinic. I decided to take a mindfulness walk around Lake Merritt, as I had heard it was analogous to the beautiful Greenlake Park in Seattle, and I wanted to soak up the essence of Oakland, California. It was a powerful walk and I felt I truly absorbed the culture and environment during the walk. Here are a few tips on how to you can take also take a mindfulness walk and perhaps learn something new about a place and about yourself along the way.
1. Walk with purpose
Plan ahead of time where are you going. Look at a map online or on an App such as Google Maps. Decide where your destination begins and ends. For my walk, I started at a coffeeshop and decided to walk around Lake Merritt with a goal of ending up at Whole Foods to buy a healthy lunch.
2. Track your path
I like to use Map My Run app on my phone. This app allows you to see the distance you have walked, view the information on your computer, and if you choose, share your path on Facebook. This was the path I took around Lake Merritt.
3. Walk in Silence
Do not listen to music while walking. Instead observe the sounds around you. What are people saying? What noise is the wind making? Can you hear any animal sounds?
On my walk, I overheard several snippets of conversation. I listened to the geese talking and the children playing. I listened to the sound a wheeled cart made as it was being pulled along hurriedly by an elderly lady.
4. Focus on Perspective
While walking around the lake, when I spied something that I found intriguing, I used my camera on my phone as a tool to find the ‘perfect’ angle from which to view it. Use your camera, even if you don’t plan on keeping any of the pictures, as a tool to observe the scenery from a different perspective.
5. Stop Often
There is an ancient saying, ‘Pass by whatever you do not love’. When walking mindfully, stop when something creates an emotion or response in you and observe that emotion or response.
As I walked around the lake, I found that the seagulls harvesting mussels from the saltwater lake brought me joy. Watching them pick them up, fly them to a rock and drop them on the rock in an attempt to open them allowed me to observe the natural struggle for survival.
At one point on the lake’s south edge, several African-American women were performing a ritual along the water’s edge. They were dressed in white dresses with african influence in their styling. One women held a large metal bowl that had burning sage in it and she chanting in foreign language as the other women gathered around her on the concrete steps that led down to the water’s edge. I stopped to watch as their ritual created the emotion of curiosity in me.
6. Be Open to the Unexpected
As I reached the north shore of the lake, I found the Nature Center was open and free to the public. I explored inside (tip: usually I pause my Map my Run app when I stop so that I can later track my actual walking time accurately and to preserve battery power).
I learned that the lake had been designated as a wildlife refuge in 1870.
After passing through the wildlife area I passed a statue at the entrance to a children’s play area. A large metal construction of the mighty dandelion. This statue triggers the memory of the short story Lessons from a Dandelion I had read to my students during a Yin yoga class.
On the walk bring a sketch book or a journal. I have no sketching abilities, so I prefer to journal. As I enjoyed my lunch while sitting on the picnic table at Whole Food’s, I journaled about my walk. Please don’t judge me on my penmanship…
What habits do you employ to increase your mindfulness during an activity such as walking? Please share!