A Walking Meditation Outside
Use this meditation in parks, on walking trails, or on the sidewalks of your neighborhood.
Walking shoes or comfy sandals.
The time could be as short as 30 minutes or as long as an hour and a half. Most often, one hour is just right to meet the goals of this mediation:
- Time spent outside
- Time spent in reflection
- Time spent in listening to others
- Time spent sharing from the heart
Prep Your Kids
This third type of meditation is great when the weather is nice.
Because this is a longer meditation than the ones previously listed in the series, it’s more practically used when your schedule allows for an increased amount of time to devote to a meditative practice that day.
Start by setting off on a walk with your kids. Pick a certain distance or landmark for the first part of your trek. Then walk that distance in silence. Yep. Total silence. Mutual, agreed upon, and refreshing silence.
Tell your children what to do during the silent portion of the walk
If, in the past, your children have experienced silence from a parent as a sign of anger, fear, or shame, make a point of telling them that is not a punitive silence. It’s a meditative one. Everyone is agreeing to be silent in order to fill up on all the goodness that surrounds you as you walk.
Encourage your children to take in the sights, smells, and sounds of the space around them. Assure them that this is a replenishing silence, one they can use to fill themselves up with wonder. Also, make sure they know that they will be invited to share their thoughts and feelings later on during the walk.
Silence a concern before it becomes a worry
My kids used to worry about how to respond to someone who might talk to them during the silent portion of the meditation. They wanted to follow my instructions and stay quiet. But they also wanted to follow a deeper desire not to be rude to passersby. I gave them two options. Offer the same to your kids.
- Wave and smile and consider the encounter with the person as one of the sights and sounds of the mediative walk.
- Turn and look at me. That would be my signal to speak to the person on my kids’ behalf, sharing that they weren’t talking because they were engaged in a walking meditation.
We used the second method most often when walking through our neighborhood. Sometimes, I used the opportunity to teach an interested neighbor about this practice. But I was wise to talk about it as succinctly as possible. It was important to me to model the meditation for my children as well as reap the benefits of it myself.
Once you pass the designated “end-of-silence” marker
Announce to your children that it is time to take turns having a talking meditation. Keep walking. It’s just that this time you’ll be talking.
Each person talks about whatever he or she wants to until finished. No one interrupts.
When that person finishes, she or he says so, and everyone else shouts in unison, “Thank you for sharing!” Then someone else takes a turn. Take your turn last to summarize what you’ve heard from each child and to help with the transition to the next activity.
At the beginning of your turn, be sure to share what you heard each child say. Each little heart most wants to know that Mama listens well and cares what’s said. Then you can share what you took in and what’s next on the agenda.
Make sure everyone gets a fair share
A clever tactic for everyone getting to share and feel heard is to create a sharing order that puts the most talkative child last, right before your turn to share.
The less talkative children get a sense of being heard and tend to be more patient (later on) with the sibling who almost always has lots of words to share.
Also, miraculously, the length of time that the least talkative child spoke tends to set a limit for how long the rest of you will speak, gently guiding the most talkative to be more succinct than usual.
Recap what you heard from each child so that all of them know that you were listening and that you care about what is on their minds and in their hearts. Then use your final words to tell the children what’s next.
Perhaps you’ll play on the playground or return to the neighborhood children who wanted to play while you were engaged in the silent portion of your mediation. You may use the time to walk back to your original starting point, using the time to more fully discuss a point that one person brought up and everyone is eager to discuss.
Be careful when you share with your kids. Make sure that your reflections are age appropriate. Not all of my own thoughts and feelings during a silent mediation are appropriate for my kids to hear. If I need to share them with someone, I make sure I pray about them before we get to the talking point in our walk.
I have even told my kids that I had a lot of difficult thoughts and emotions during the silence, so I spent part of the walk handing those things over to Jesus. And I’ve alerted them that I plan to text a friend about those thoughts and feelings during the first part of their playtime once the walk is over.
Doing so allowed me to be honest, age-appropriate, and available as a model of self-care. These meditations really do work!
I love that the walking meditation gets us moving outdoors and helps us know each other better in the process.