Whatever the season, spending time in nature happily coincides with one of my favorite mindfulness practices: outdoor walking meditation, or mindful walking. Focusing while our body remains still presents a challenge for many of us, from the easily triggered to the anxious to the attention deficient, which is why contemplative movement—be it ritual dance, sport, martial arts, or something else—exists in so many cultures. In fact, mindful walking practice is often what people describe as their favorite practice after they’ve taken a mindfulness course, and the one they are most likely to continue to practice. It’s the best reminder that mindfulness does not have to be a still, solitary, indoor activity.
Walking is a movement we do every day, and like breathing, is usually something we do without much thought. Getting outside to walk deliberately in nature can open our eyes, offering new perspectives different from those we encounter indoors or inside our digital devices. Author Richard Louv, among others, writes about “nature-deficit disorder” and how it affects our physical and emotional well-being, suggesting even just a little exposure to green spaces boosts happiness and attention. The Japanese practice of “forest bathing,” with its