Tuesday, September 21, 2010


There is a quality we can achieve sometimes, a heightened sense of integration and focus. It is a transpersonal, extra-ordinary way of being, an indescribable sense of being more than the sum of our ordinary responses. When we enter this zone, we often generate a presence that is more centered, concentrated and open at the same time.

I have experienced this state of integration during artistic performance, when singing with others or dancing on stage, or in moments of sharing or intimacy. I have also experienced it during meditation practice, something I engage in rarely, I must admit. I am not particularly scheduled or disciplined in this regard, but have learned over the years how to drop into a calm state of open awareness for short spurts. The best meditation practice for me is a walking meditation, and sometimes a walk can generate this calm, quiet focus naturally, without engaging in a personal lecture to me on the benefits and necessity of meditating in the first place.

In preparation for my first public workshop, I invited a dear friend for a nature walk. We did not do this silently; we always talk about many things when we are together – our feelings, worries, relationship issues, goals in our fledgling endeavors – yet about halfway through the walk, everything came together. Time slowed, and my sensory awareness heightened, even as we continued to talk, stopping to notice the shape of green algae on the water, separated by patches of clear, reflection filled stream. The scent of goldenrod and butterfly bush caressed us and the breeze blew our hair around. She gathered acorn caps for an art project; I picked a yellow flower and stuck it behind my ear. We took the long way through Buttercup Nature Preserve, walking through tall pampas grass by the lake, skirting the fence on the hill behind a farmer's hay field, passing the stone Folly, which we could hear before we could see, its creaky metal flag calling to us as it turned in the wind. As we moved from a rolling field into a mossy, tree lined forest lane, she said, "A nature walk is a meditation."

That quality of awareness, of heightened presence floated me to my workshop. It carried me through my slight surprise at the age of my group – they were much older than I expected. The focused feeling helped me easily adjust my plan to fit the seasoned hospice volunteers, and to begin by saying there was much I had to learn from them since they had so much more experience with Active Listening than I did. To be in the presence of a group of compassionate volunteers, who regularly sit with the dying as they move through their transition, was an honor.

This sense of concentration and calm stayed with me all the way home. It seems to have been felt by the participants too, since the feedback was mostly positive. One person even mentioned my "calm presence" as a workshop leader. Considering how jangled I have felt in the last month, I am grateful for a meditative nature walk. I think I should take one every day.

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