Harmonious Walking by Slowly Immersing Oneself In Nature

Not all of my walks with my wife had been harmonious since we moved to Scotland in 2018. Patience is not always my strong suit. Nor is close attention to detail. Both, however, are my wife’s strengths. Her attributes and my flaws sometimes intertwine in unfortunate ways. You probably know how it goes? Would harmony prevail? There was just a wee bit of tension in the air during the car journey. Nonetheless, we arrived safely.

So how was this walk planned to be highly mindful and slow going to work out for us? The stakes were huge. We might have to give up walking together if we couldn’t find a way of enjoying nature and getting the health benefits.

A Ranger colleague of mine mentioned he had recently completed training in getting the absolute maximum from being “in” or “with” Nature. You can find out more about this at Ian Banyard’s website. Ian outlines a seven-day programme to improve our engagement with Nature to boost our well-being and overall health. I liked his writing style, which was straightforward and easy to digest. My wife had taken up the challenge and we had decided on a slow immersive walk at one of our favourite places; Cashel Forest Trust on the banks of Loch Lomond. I could not help but wonder if slow and immersive was a euphemism for another dreaded word, forever. Whatever.

This walk, at Cashel Forest Trust near Balmaha, Scotland and overlooking the eastern shore of Loch Lomond, is where my better half and I chose to do day three of Ian’s programme, which is about walking very, very slowly deliberately and mindfully. We took the blue route now named the Birch Path: Memorial Pond all of 2/3 of a mile or 1 km, which is well-signposted from the car park (there is a charge). It’s down as a 30-minute walk; we took 90 minutes to complete it, quite deliberately, much to the surprise and confusion of the family dog! If I had known this in advance I may have been more than a little reluctant.

As someone with a busy mind usually, I thought this exercise was going to be incredibly hard. It wasn’t, but I did have my camera to help me slow down and pay close attention to everything around me. The meditation knowledge and experience gained over the last four years also helped me to consciously engage all my senses one at a time and to just accept the result without overthinking it. Perhaps the camera was a bit of a cop-out?

The experience produced a wee nugget of learning or re-learning; namely, we spend so much time rushing through life that we frequently miss what is immediately in front of our noses, eyes, ears, skin, tastebuds and spirits. Slowing right down to a pace that is probably more in keeping with Nature’s gradual evolution does open us up to new ways of being. It’s almost as though you can start to hear deep messages resonating within your soul directly from Nature. The drive to improve my fitness, lose some weight and do 10,000 steps a day had got in the way of the most important thing about a walk. Actually enjoying it. And I did. The ninety minutes passed easily. I even hugged a tree, just to find out if I was missing something so you don’t get the wrong idea of course. Letting go is a big part of making this work. Stress, and we’d had a ton of it since 2018 (who hasn’t?) made letting go seem, well, perhaps frivolous or even irresponsible.

The 30-minute car drive home, in peaceful and comfortable silence, was in stark contrast to the edgy conversation between us on the way to Cashel. The nature at Cashel is exceptional for this type of activity. We have done several slow immersive walks since and can only wholly recommend it if you haven’t tried it. Walking together in the future was safe.

Nature, psyche, and life appear to me like divinity unfolded – what more could I ask for?

Carl Jung in, The Earth Has a Soul: C G Jung on Nature, Technology & Modern Life, M. Sabini, 2016, North Atlantic Books, Berkeley, California

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