Walking in nature gives peace of mind. There, things are exactly as they are supposed to be. Trees do not wonder if they are in the right place, lightning does not set an alarm to hit on time and the water always flows in the right direction. But anyone who has ever been in a thunderstorm or hailstorm knows that nature can also be brutal. Or rather: indifferent. The sun does not shine brighter when you need cheering up and the wind does not blow less when you’re struck by winterblues.
In a world where we humans try to control everything, nature keeps reminding us that this compulsion to control is absurd. Mother Nature decides, not us and we better surrender to that.
Despite our lack of influence, swimming in a lake, a walk on the beach or a holiday in the mountains often feels like a warm bath, a deep embrace. Everything seems to be slowly falling into place. The chaos you find in a dense pine forest is often more tolerable than the chaos in your head, and a walk can help you sort things out, prioritize, and let unnecessary worries slip away. It quietens.
Thoughts wander.Spinning around in circles for a while, but finally dissolve. Everything you were worrying about in the morning is sliding off like the snow from the branches in a rising sun. Letting go. That is what nature teaches us. Let go of what is still on your to-do list, let go of what you're expecting of yourself, your family or society, let go of what you have to achieve and enjoy the rest and peace of the Big Nothing.
Although life is all about balance and everyone has to find their own path, I saw the light in March 2015. I quit my job, gave up my belongings, and built a bicycle to travel the world. To sleep in my tent. To come to myself and discover the world without deadlines and the rat race of modern society. It set in motion a whole host of adventures, including a four-month horse, camel and dog trip in Mongolia, a three-month hunting expedition through the mountains of New Zealand, and a 400-mile hike through the Jordan desert.
This winter I spend in Lapland. With all my gear in a sleigh, I hike with snowshoes and skis through the white winter landscape north of the Arctic Circle. There is something magical about the snow, it twinkles and shines and absorbs all the sounds around me. All I can hear are my own footsteps creaking in the virgin white carpet. Every now and then a ptarmigan flies up, sometimes I hear the grazing of a moose and I enjoy the beauty that now surrounds me. What I don't hear, but see is the vast starry sky with shooting stars and on some days the spectacle of the Northern Lights. It’s magic.
I let my mind wander. Expectations, obligations, reflections and considerations, I let go of everything. Although the conditions are tough, the distances I cover long and the temperatures well below freezing, I find peace. As an active meditation I slide foot by foot to my next destination. Where will it be? It’s not important.
Through all these adventures I've found that the best meditation is achieved when you leave your phone at home, you don't have too many goals for your walk, and you allow yourself the space to just 'be'. Fortunately, it is not difficult. To achieve such a state of acceptance - like everything else in life - you don't have to do anything more than take the first step.
Take a few deep breaths and then move on to the next. Let a natural rhythm sink into your legs and you will soon find yourself not thinking about anything. Everyone's rhythm is different and can also vary from day to day. Surrender to it and find your own pace.
With each step sink a little deeper into yourself, but also be aware of your surroundings. What do you hear, see, smell, feel? Think about a mushroom, listen carefully to the tapping of a woodpecker, follow in the footsteps of a deer or let yourself become completely wet with rain or snow. Listen to your own thoughts.
Do you mope, curse and stop your trip or do you enjoy the drops on your skin, put on your rubber boots and start jumping up and down in puddles? Like you used to enjoy when you were still a child? Can you just accept the world around you as it is and do you have an eye for what it has to teach you?
Maybe a good dose of headwind can teach you something about perseverance? A warm ray of sunshine might make you feel grateful? Observe it, observe everything and then walk on slowly. Praise yourself for stepping out of the door today to experience it all. The beauty of the world around you.
About Tamar Valkenier
For years Tamar has been doing nothing but walking, cycling, horseback riding and skiing through nature. In her Dutch book “Fulltime Avonturier". Over alles achterlaten en de zoektocht naar ultieme vrijheid.” she describes the inner journey she made to be truly free. Be inspired by the stories on her website www.tamarvalkenier.com, on instagram @tamarvalkenier and/or order her book now at bol.com:
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