When is the last time you walked in silence? No music, no friendly chatter… just silence? It’s safe to say it’s been months for me – until this morning.
The weather is hinting at a change toward fall after a long, hot Arizona summer. The prenatal yoga class I lead was canceled and the Dharma Yoga class I attend was canceled. My husband took the boys to school and the temperature was inching toward 80* so I took myself out to the closest neighborhood trail for a little time in Sedona’s sacred red rocks.
I decided I’d try a walking meditation. I would clear my mind of all thoughts that may arise and let go of any to-dos of the day ahead. I would just walk and be present, observing. In yoga we often talk about being the “witness.” When we are able to separate ourselves from the thoughts in our minds, and instead just notice that we are having a thought, we are observing and witnessing… we are in touch with the buddhi mind – the overmind, the intuitive mind that sees everything but does not judge. Although the ego would continue to create thoughts, I would try to just notice the thought and let it pass, not following down the rabbit hole of an analytical thought pattern.
To silence the constant stream of thoughts that may arise, I said my mantra to myself: “om shrim som somaya namaha.” This moon mantra was given to me during my yoga teacher training at Seven Centers Yoga Arts and I say it to myself when doing chores, falling asleep, and anytime to strengthen my energetic field.
Step by step, I walked. I breathed. I noticed. I silently chanted. I felt the wind on my skin, softly wrapping my body in its gentle breeze. I felt the sun warm on my bare arms. I felt the rocks underfoot – some large and sturdy, some so small they were becoming soft sand on the trail with my every step. I heard the earth crunching beneath my feet, my heartbeat pulsing in my ears, the wind passing through strands of trees, bushes and soft grasses, ravens cawing, songbirds singing, occasional planes passing overhead. I saw the clear blue sky, towering red rocks – majestic in their size under the changing light – a hundred shades of green from the sage, cactus, juniper trees, manzanita bushes, wildflowers and agave. The deep jelly red of prickly-pear fruit ready to become lunch for a javelina or forager passing by. I smelled the red dirt beneath me, a hint of moisture in the air. Om shrim som somaya namaha….
I found a shady spot to sit where I could see Thunder Mountain, a reminder of the day my husband proposed atop its peak. It’s visible from virtually anywhere in town and I love to gaze upon it and think of how pure his love was that day and every day. Today I closed my eyes and focused on my breath. I don’t know how long I sat there. Occasionally I’d hear a leaf drop behind me, reassure myself it wasn’t a snake, and focus inward once more.
I heard voices in the distance so I opened my eyes and the whole world looked different. The colors were brighter, the scene somehow calmer, my mind stiller. I experienced a feeling of vast space, both outside and within. I pulled a journal out of my backpack so as not to appear too crazy (that darn ego!) and made some notes. I was about 15 feet from the trail but the first pair of hikers didn’t look my way. After a short time another group came along. None of them noticed me either. Then a jogger – he didn’t glance my way. Was I really that camouflaged? Or were they so focused on the path ahead of them that they didn’t notice what was right beside them?
Many times in a yoga pose and in life I strive for focus. I practice balance and maintaining my focus despite outside distractions or thoughts that arise. But at this moment I wondered, what am I missing by being so focused on my own path? Sure, each step on the hike I aimed to step with intention and if I looked to the side or above for too long I was bound to stumble, unaware of the obstacles in my immediate path. Maybe if I slowed down and took time to observe my surroundings from a wider angle, maybe it would change my perspective and offer a new opportunity for growth, learning, or wittnessing.
Slowing down the pace of life allows the subconscious mind a break from the constant stream of information coming in at every moment. Not just the buzz of your phone but the color of the carpet and the smell of your co-worker’s lunch and the song that gets stuck in your head from passing through the grocery store, and the cars and signs and scenery whizzing by as you drive from one place to the next. There is literally too much information coming in at such a fast pace that our minds filter it out for us. Yet it remains, stored in our subconscious minds. When we walk slowly, as our ancestors traveled, we are able to slow down that torrent of information, and when we can clear the conscious mind, we gain access to clearing the subconscious mind. And that is when the real release, growth, and inner-knowing happens.
I thought of my dad, whose foot pain causes him to move at such a slow pace that I have to remind myself to be patient. And I remembered his joyous chuckle and his ability to connect with his grandchildren from a place of pure presence. Maybe he has it figured out – traveling slowly and savoring each moment. It was time to go, time to walk back. I packed up my journal, took a deep breath and began slowly walking back the way I had come.
I was alone but not lonely, feeling connected to those who have walked before me, slowly. Perhaps they were focused on the trail ahead or maybe they scanned the desert forest around them. It’s funny how perspectives change, and how a change in perspective can change everything.
The words “let go” came to me. So I let go and I traveled step by step, repeating om shrim som somaya namaha.
What have you gained by moving slowly? What have you observed by changing your perspective? Leave a comment if you wish!