Just steps away from the car park there is a big old oak tree whose branches extend over the river. I start here, releasing any stress from the day, and saying a prayer of invocation.
When I am ready I start my walk, first along the path through the woods and then circling back by the river, and eventually stopping at a bench overlooking the flowing water where I can contemplate further.
On this day, I have brought my ten-year-old son.
I explain my ritual and invite him to join in my initial clearing and prayer. As we walk, I advise him to be open to whatever thoughts, emotions, or sensations present themselves, but caution him to keep his mind clear, grounding himself by concentrating on his feet on the earth if he has to.
“Could we see signs along the way, Mom?”
“Like that hawk sitting in that tree over there?”
“Possibly. It could also just be a hawk sitting in a tree. I don’t usually pay too much attention, unless the sign recurs. But it is definitely okay to appreciate nature; he is a beauty.”
We walk on in silence. The woods offer a plethora of wildlife and I can see that John is alert and on the outlook. So serious for such a young man.
We reach a fork in the path, and I point us towards the river. This is my favourite part of the walk, where the graceful old trees line the riverbank, and magnificent homes stand guard across the way. It is a hot day, with little breeze, and the river is peaceful.
John points at two more hawks resting in the treetops.
“A good sign?” I ask him.
“I think so.”
It has been six months since our family was torn apart by separation, and while John seems to be doing well, I often wonder. He is an old soul; to worried about his mother for his own good. I am happy that he came along with me today, on what he calls my ‘finding inner peace’ walks.
I steer us off the path and across a grassy patch to a bench. “I like to sit here at the end,” I explain, “and just think about the walk, and anything else I might need to experience for healing today.”
I direct him to sit up straight with his feet touching the earth. He has to sit forward. Then I suggest he closes his eyes, and breaths deeply, releasing each breath slowly and fully.
“Feel the earth beneath your feet and around you, and as you breath, let go of your separateness.”
“What does that mean?”
“Try to experience yourself as a part of the surroundings. When you breath, for instance, imagine your awareness expanding beyond your physical self and becoming just part of the flow, so that the river feels like it is moving through you, and that bird’s song is inside you. Do you understand what I mean?”
“I think so.” Then after a few minutes. “Why doesn’t everyone do this, Mom?”
“It would be good. What are you feeling?”
“Like I totally let go of anger. I can’t hold onto it when I’m in this place.”
“Now you know why I come here.”
From the corner of my eye, I can see that others were approaching, so I suggest we move on. As we walk back towards the car, John, who had fallen quiet again, says: “You know how they say seeing is believing?”
“Well I think it is actually the other way around. If you believe it, you can see it, but you have to believe it first.”
“You may be right.”
I don’t often share my meditative walks with another person, but it occurs to me as I write this that John and I are due for another.