Thursday, 15 October 2015

Mindfulness, wilderness experiences and getting lost

My first mindful walk as a guide is on Friday 23rd October. When I was out preparing the way today I was wondering: Does a winderness experience help me to reach a mindful state.


paying attention to what I'm seeing hearing and feeling in the present moment.

I have known people who deliberately get lost: they take the narrow path at every fork and are at risk of straying onto privately owned land. I can imagine that it tests their intuition, tracking skills and makes them sensitive to every clue to the route home. Some people might find this frightening and land owners can certainly object. I have lost track of a path as night descends but I've always known roughly where I was.

Exploring mindfulness has led me to pause for thirty seconds in a pine wood, for instance, to listen to the sounds though it might be a few steps off the track. Fortunately I've often seen dog owners doing the same and I don't think a small diversion is a problem for the local land owners.

But the path I was walking today was bordered on both sides as the landowner clearly wanted to keep walkers exactly on the permitted path. I felt penned in and separated from the woodland on either side.  That got me thinking about what a true wilderness experience would be like. 
There would be no signs of human activity and no one to meet on the path and no indication of the correct route. While I was thinking this a helicopter flew low overhead, a farmer was cutting hedges and gun shots were scaring the pheasants.
It's not possible to escape the sounds of human activity. There is a rarely taken path I know which climbs the hillside in the middle of the wood, but I still see feeding stations for the pheasants and cables or drains or irrigation pipes.

It's not necessary to be in a complete wilderness to be surprised by natural beauty; one of those moments you meet when you're out walking. What helps me is to ask a question like where's that sound coming from? Or to check whether I see a particular bird that I saw at this spot last time.

Strangely what is helping me most at present is being orientated. Knowing where the sun is and where the wind is coming from. As I walk my circular route I have a reason to pay attention to what I see, hear and feel; I notice if the wind swings round and lines itself up with the sun. Checking the trees, chimney smoke and the movement of the clouds has made me aware of the ever-changing present moment. 

But everyone's different maybe people have other ways to keep directing their attention back to the present moment when out walking.


  1. Ni, your perspective, interpretation and harmony with nature is wonderful. As C 21st humans, we expect modernity to give us everything we desire. But, as humans, we also need the sunlight on our backs, the fresh air in our lungs, and the escape from urban life to experience the life affirming wonder of nature and all the goodness it gives us.

    See you in Guiting Power for the next CNM walk. Kx

  2. Thanks, Karen, I agree, the feelings that Nature brings let me know I'm alive as well as the sounds that I've been concentrating on.