“Above all, do not lose your desire to walk: every day I walk myself into a state of well-being and walk away from every illness; I have walked myself into my best thoughts and I know of no thought so burdensome that one cannot walk away from it.” — Søren Kierkegaard
Just recently, I went out for a long quiet walk in the woods and I met myself.
It was so quiet you could hear your heart beat, you could hear yourself breathe, you could hear yourself think, you could hear the sound of silence. It’s a strange thing to say but silence does have a sound, a sound many of us have heard, a sound that gets drowned in the noise of life, a sound that lies buried under our gadgets and our television sets and our cars…..But that day I heard that sound, and although I was a little hesitant initially to venture forth into the unknown forest, I decided to go ahead.
We were in Kerala, I had accompanied my mum for her ayurvedic treatment, and after a deeply relaxing massage I was introduced to the term `forest bath’. I had never heard of this before. Apparently it is quite common abroad; a forest bath is not a bath with water as the term `bath’ is commonly understood. A `forest bath’ is time spent with nature in a forest.
As I walked on into the forest after my initial hesitation for my forest bath, I was soon overcome by a great sense of peace. I was reminded of my childhood; we used to do this when we were children, we would walk without knowing where we were going, we walked just because we enjoyed walking and exploring and discovering, and so I continued to walk.
`During walks’, a writer wrote, `the body advances while the mind flutters around it like a bird’. The silence of the woods, strangely reassuring, and the peace brought out the child in me. As the gentle, warm sun shone on me through the trees, I felt myself, my entire body come alive, all my senses came alive; the sounds were clearer, the fragrance of the trees very distinct. I could hear the shy birds singing in their hideouts in the trees, somewhere nearby a small squirrel scurried away into a tree, butterflies swam around like leaves, and the crunching sound of the dried yellow-red leaves under my feet followed me through the walk. Not just yellow and red, there were leaves of so many shades. The sky had never seemed so blue or perhaps we don’t notice its blue- ness because of our frantic, busy lives. But on that beautiful sunny day the entire universe seemed to have come to a halt. Nature was taking me for a walk and talking to me; my mind, now completely empty and silent, was filled with birdsong and the sounds and smells of the forest. Time had stopped. After a while, when it started to get a little dark, I realized I had been walking for over one-and-a-half hours.
Often, we try to meditate and the experience just eludes us, but sometimes you manage to enter that quiet zone with no effort. Peace and quiet float down from up above and wrap you in it like a warm, cosy blanket would in winter. This was one of those days. A day like this is a blessing. On a day like this, you feel you have been rewarded by Nature because you are doing something right. On a day like this, Nature takes you in its lap and heals you. On a day like this, Nature introduces you to yourself.