by Chelsea Doohan
Have you smelled the air outside lately? Have you noticed that the sunsets are particularly colorful this time of year? Have you enjoyed putting on a cozy sweater and feeling the crisp, cool air on your face?
These are all pleasurable experiences. The joys of Fall. They all relate to the changes taking place in the natural world this time of year. And they are all fleeting.
For some reason, Fall seems particularly full of reminders that everything is changing all the time. Fall reveals that nothing stays the way it is for very long.
This time of year, when there is a beautiful, warm, sunny day, do you hear people saying “this may be one of the last we get this year”?
People have a heightened awareness of how precious sunlight is because they know the winter is right around the corner, and sunlight will be in short supply.
Another impossible-to-miss change this time of year is the leaves turning. The air temperature certainly changes, and the sounds of Nature do too.
This doesn’t even touch on all the change happening in peoples lives related to school, schedules, family, work, and the demands of balancing it all with the holidays fast approaching.
All of this change can induce joy, but it’s also very likely to cause some angst, whether conscious or not.
My answer to both the joy of change and the angst it can cause is. . .
Take a walk!
Get outside. See what you can notice. See what is different now as compared to other times of the year. Notice with all your senses.
Walk briskly, walk slowly, it doesn’t matter. Walk to get somewhere, walk around in circles. Walk alone, walk with a loved one or friend. Just walk. See how it changes your day, your mood, your outlook.
There are lots of good reasons to take a walk. One of them is that it is a pleasurable way to practice yoga. I don’t mean asana (poses), but yoga in a larger sense.
Taking a Fall walk presents an opportunity to practice staying in the present amidst the change that is happening all around you. That’s yoga.
If you would like to try some walking practices but aren’t quite sure how to get started, here are a few ideas:
Use errands as a way to get outside and walking around. Granted, this isn’t possible everywhere, but it certainly is possible in Oberlin! Do your errands at Watson Hardware, Ben Franklin, and the Library, and then add a loop or two around Tappan Square as a little reward for yourself.
Especially with all the construction and congestion in downtown Oberlin right now, walking is much less of a headache than driving.
I just discovered that where I live now, I can walk to the Post Office in about 10 minutes, which makes for a lovely 20 minute loop (and I complete an errand in the meantime, killing two birds with one stone).
Look for opportunities like this. Or, if you are doing an errand in your car, simply parking farther from where you are going gives you a mini walk and a little time to feel the air and/or meditate, which brings us to. . .
Combine walking with meditation. If you have a sitting meditation practice, take it outside once a week, or every other day. You can do everything walking that you can do sitting on a meditation cushion.
If you are new to meditation, walking is an accessible way to begin training your mind. As part of teacher trainings and intensives at Solaluna, we do a fair amount of “metta walks.” It’s great to do in a group, but you can also practice on your own.
Simply walk quietly (without talking) and offer metta (loving friendliness) to what you encounter. This may include people and also can include trees, animals, landscapes, the wind, the town, or anything else. When your attention strays (and it will), simply come back to the practice of offering metta.
Find a buddy. I’ve had many people tell me that it’s easier to do exercise–or any practice–when there is someone else there who is expecting you to show up. It makes a lot of sense. That’s one of the reasons why the early morning practice sessions at Solaluna are so great–you know someone else is going to be there, so you are more likely to get yourself there too.
I remember sometimes when Eric and I would be walking around Tappan Square, we would encounter Joan Webster with her walking buddy. It always brightened our walk to see them, to know that someone else was out besides us. In other words, it made it feel communal.
Busy people take note: You kill two birds with one stone with this one, because you get to have a visit with a friend AND get outside AND get some exercise all at once. (Wait, that’s THREE birds!)
Try one of these approaches, and as always, we’d love to hear from you about your experience when you do.
I wish you a happy Fall, and happy walking.