At the end of our walk, we gathered in a circle, twenty-five or so souls.
“So how was it?” “Wonderful.” “Wonderful.”
Wonderful is a commonly used word. We know it means something great, something that we have enjoyed, something that speaks to us in some way. In this instance, I really felt that the two people who used it were drawing on the origins of the word – something full of wonder.
Our Po-Zu walk with Way of Nature was billed as a Mindful Sunday walk. My experience on the walk has led me to be ponderful about the relationship between Mindful and Wonderful, and how being mindful leads to awareness of the wonderful.
Andres Roberts and Adrian Kowal were our mindful and wonderful guides for the afternoon. During the course of our three hours together on Hampstead Heath in the most glorious soft spring sunshine, they introduced us to four mindful activities.
The first was simply to walk and to pay attention to what you noticed. You could talk, but preferably about what was in front of you, rather than thoughts you had brought with you. When we gathered together again, people shared about the bluebells they had noticed, the little blue flowers, the irises shooting up dynamically from the pond, the copper beech tree with woman’s hips and light caught in the leaves, the bird song. Noticing the wonderful.
Gathered in our circle, we then practiced a few Qigong exercises. My favourite here was ‘bouncing bliss’, jumping up and down and shaking faster and faster, and then stopping and feeling the energy radiate away from us. We finished with a standing meditation, holding our arms in a circle in front of us at different heights for nine breaths at a time, and beginning to feel the energy flowing between our fingertips. Sensing the wonderful.
The third activity was mindful walking and Andres shared techniques for this. The Vietnamese Buddhist monk, Thich Nhat Hanh’s invites us to experience with each step, “I am home, I have arrived”. Andres explained this is not simply about saying these words to ourselves as we place our feet on the ground. It is about fully experiencing this sensation in our bodies. He also shared an expression of Thich Nhat Hanh’s – ‘Walk as if you were kissing the earth with your feet’. I had heard this before, but I had never felt what this really meant. As I walked slowly, mindfully, taking my time to put my foot on the earth, I focused on that contact with the earth. It came to mind that if I was seeking to ‘kiss the earth with my feet’, as I placed my feet slowly and gently, this was placing me in a relationship, a loving relationship with the earth. And a kiss is two-way – the earth was kissing my feet back, loving them, supporting them, supporting me. In this mindful walking, I truly felt the earth as a body. Experiencing the wonderful.
The final mindful activity, which was optional throughout the course of the walk, was barefoot walking. After the Qigong, I opted to carry my Po-zus, for once me carrying them rather than them carrying me. I noticed how walking barefoot made me walk more slowly. Part of this was a practical reason: I needed to pay attention to where I was putting my feet to make sure that I wasn’t putting them on something sharp or squishy. It was also to do with feeling the earth, enjoying the coolness of the grass, or the warmth of sun-baked soil, the slight prickliness of seed casings, or the softness of a damp patch of ground. Feeling the wonderful.
At the end of the walk, I slipped back on my Po-Zus. My feet felt tingling and alive, my body and mind relaxed. Thank you to Andres and Adrian, and all the people who were part of making it so full of wonder.
If you like the sound of this and would like to experience your own sense of natural wonder, here’s a link to the events Way of Nature are running this year: