Some mornings start with brewing coffee, crying babies, barking dogs or a long list of tasks. But there is an alternate start to a hurried day, by inviting your senses to interact with the tranquility in nature while going on a healing walk.
Participating in a guided healing walk
Several times a year, as a cultural liaison at Three Rivers, I lead healing walks at French Regional Park. Using my circle and restorative training, I create a space where we can be in community together, distanced from the chaos of life. During a guided healing walk, I eagerly welcome community members for a 20-minute journey around the park’s beautiful lagoon. Following a warm greeting, I lead a meditation. Together, we center ourselves to prepare for the walk. I ask each person to open to nature and leave any busy thoughts of the day at the start of the path.
As we begin the walk, I invite each person to notice the world around them and let their five senses guide them. The goal is to experience the fullness of nature, noticing the living creatures and their habitats that greet them. There is peace in the nestled trees and in hearing a symphony of blowing leaves or a bird's melody on repeat.
Releasing, becoming aware and accepting the experience is an important part of the walk. Surrendering to the smells, sounds and sights allows for a deeper encounter. Using mindfulness prompts, walkers are encouraged to embrace what feels good to their senses and release what does not. They discover new things about the natural world and themselves, like recognizing the rhythm of their footsteps and breaths as they walk along.
Along the route, some people process their experience by talking with those close by. Others walk quietly. Some gently feel the rough bark or the roots of a tree. There is no right or wrong way to walk. One only needs to explore and discover.
At the trail’s end, each person is invited to share a brief reflection of their experience. Those who want deeper reflection are encouraged to journal about the walk later, closing their eyes and writing about the first thing that comes to mind when recalling the walk.
Before we leave, I remind everyone that there is power in choosing to connect with nature. Our world is always extending an invitation to use it as a reflective space and as a healing source.
Going on your own healing walk
The rising sun gives us a new opportunity to connect with the outdoors. Add a healing walk to your morning or evening routine at a park or a lake near your home. It’s an activity you can do anywhere in nature, letting your five senses guide you through your environment. Choosing to connect with the beautiful outdoors begins with a willingness to meet the extraordinary on an ordinary day.
Begin by walking without distractions from your phone, earbuds or music. Listen to your stride and the sound of your steps on the ground below. Allow yourself to notice the breeze or the absence of wind. Use your senses to notice your surroundings. Note new sounds and observe subtle movements of nature. Each observation is another invitation to lean in and absorb more.
When your walk ends, embrace the perspective you’ve gained, knowing that you can find moments in vast, natural spaces that will bring you joy and peace.
Join a guided healing walk
Want to participate in a guided healing walk? Join us at French Regional Park on Saturday, October 23, 2021, at 9:30 AM. Come alone or invite a friend to join you on a journey to lean closer to nature and release the chaos of our busy world. No registration is required. For more information or to ask questions, please email me at Nicole.Fernandez@ThreeRiversParks.org.
About the Author
Nicole finds peace and healing in nature — whether she is taking a walk on a trail or photographing lakes and sunsets — and she strives to share that with others as a cultural liaison at Three Rivers. Nicole has previous work experience at nonprofit organizations focusing on education, youth development and community relations. She has also helped spearhead community and demographic information projects to promote cultural value and awareness. Nicole enjoys using her expertise to serve members of the Three Rivers community and create partnerships with faith-based, underrepresented and education communities.
Nicole Fernandez, cultural liaison at Three Rivers, finds joy in connecting others to the outdoors. Learn what draws Nicole to nature, and read about some of her favorite experiences connecting BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color) community members to the parks.