Finding The Path to Self Through Walking Meditation
Finding the Path to Self
Finding the path to the self is not an easy venture. There will be times that exploring the self can feel painful and rot with confusion. In the yogic practice, the journey to the self is called, “Swadaya.” The purpose of the sutra is to focus your attention into the internal state of presence, reminding yourself that you’re nothing but light and unconditional love or ‘the self.’ The state, which we call the ‘core self’ or ‘baseline state,’ is so valuable in understanding how to live a life free from negativity, doubt and pain. The path to the self begins when we’re able to radically shift our attention from negative thoughts, patterns and conditions and simply remind ourselves of the gratitude we feel for being alive. When journeying through the path to the self, there different magical tools individuals can utilize to help to reach different states of self-awareness and end suffering. One of these tools is humans’ deep connection and spirituality to nature called ‘anchoring.’
Achieving a baseline state and entering the core of self is more than just being grounded. “Grounding” means having an energetic connection to the earth, being present, aware, and in your body. Being at baseline is all of that, but it also implies being emotionally receptive and neutral, not inflated or pumped up, not depressed, not telling yourself a story about yourself. Neutral is not numb. Rather, it’s the state of being maximally open to information and communications coming at you. There is a way you can begin ‘anchoring’ in nature.
While visiting Big Bear Lake in California, it became quickly apparent the connection we have with the earth and our self. Hiking up the beaded hills, covered with green and yellow mounting rock, the mountains pierce into the very heart of discontentment. The sun beats down on the back of your neck, but the oceans soft and cooling breeze offers relief as you make your way sauntering down the winding hills. The earth is just as much our teacher as the yogi, therapist, and healer.
Environmental advocate and PhD on women’s studies and ecopsychology, Star Hawk, author of Earth Path writes about specific sacred practices individuals can utilize to help reconnect them to the earth and their core sense of self. She states in earth rituals, there is a relationship between the rituals and redefining or coming into a sense of self. Archetypes of the younger self can be found in earth rituals which prepare an opening into yourself for the kind of work that helps to balance and form trust between the self and the external world – In trauma work, we learn that impaired emotional bonding happens when a child experiences pain, negligence, or abuse. To fit into the family structure or system, the child ultimately gives up parts of themselves to conform and gain the parents love. However, the parents love, is only partially and conditionally loving, formerly loving the parts of the child that have conformed to their desires. These structures create altered states of perception and experience for the child and can cause the child to neglect their true self, solely seeking approval and love through other people. The need for acceptance from others can be so overpowering for the individual that they can either develop addictions like eating disorders or alcoholism or they’re constantly chasing that validation through forms of relational co-dependency. Many times, individuals who were conditionally loved by their parents end up being overly possessed with proving themselves.
A Path Into the Self
A path into the self seeks to untangle the altered parts that learned to seek themselves through their parents and attachment figures conditions. It allows the individual to remember that they’re unconditionally loved despite the familial structuring that they were born and raised into. And that through venturing into and healing the lost parts of ourselves we’re able to experience states of inner-peace and happiness. However, discovering happiness or contentment isn’t an easy walk around the park. It can look a lot like an expansive trail on a large mountainside – long, winding and laden with rock and rubbish. What you see may see in front of you looks foreign and ill-defined – there could be grizzly bears and cougars. And with every step, your feet begin to swell up against the back of your shoe causing your legs to shake with anticipation of what is to come next. Oh, but if you are able to push through the discomfort and learn to trust yourself through the experience, what you will find is a radical form of self-discovery. To begin this journey, it is important that you begin to look at healing as a serious act. Healing the wounded parts of ourselves – the parts that we deemed we could never give attention too out of fear of parental retaliation or rejection. And shifting into a new way of unconditional love begins with radically taking on the journey into the self.
To start it is important to lean on nature to help you overcome the discomfort that can accompany the path into the self. Activating your senses can calm your nervous and bring a sense of internal comfort allowing for changes to be made neurochemically in the brains wiring system. You can do this by feeling the breeze on your skin, smelling the wildflowers, and walking slowly, silently on the route.
- What are you noticing about your experience in the wild?
- Where are you feeling discomfort in your body?
- What stressful thoughts are coming up for you as you experience the sense of solitude the wilderness brings you
As you continue to venture deeper into the wilderness on your path, I want you to notice the different experiences agitation, fear, exhaustion, and stress that might come up for you. If you feel like you’ve made an association or realization, come into your center, and find a way to sit deeper into the experience.
How can we experience the soul journey in nature if we’ve been traumatized?
Being a trauma survivor comes with it own set of rules. Many times, when we’ve experienced trauma ‘going inward’ and ‘focusing on the self’ through meditation or mindfulness can be dangerous if unresolved issues are still present. This is because the brain processes traumatic memories differently than it process normal memories and the interference between experiencing ‘present moment focus’ and the past can become interlaced.
When practicing mindfulness as a trauma survivor, it is important that the survivor remember that there are ways to safely approach feeling comfortable and present in your body. To do this, a survivor can begin with practicing mindfulness in a safe place that feels grounding. If you’ve never experienced what safety can feel like, which is common amongst trauma survivors, it is important that the trauma survivor focus on the sensations of safety with a trained professional who can lead the survivor through the mindfulness activities. Or the walk in the forest. Instead of walking in the woods or mountains, it might be better for the trauma survivor to find a special place in nature. The individual can begin to become acquainted with that place – slowly activating the five senses again. When sitting in nature, begin by grounding yourself into your center. Think of a place, time, or situation in your life where you feel relaxed and at ease, where you can just be yourself. Where you don’t have to impress anyone or achieve anything or exert your power. Say your name to yourself, the name you most identify with. Notice where it resonates in your body, and touch that place, or find a posture or gesture you can make that feels connected to this baseline state.
- What is around you as you look at the beautiful nature?
- What image or symbol comes to mind in this embodied state?
- What can you be grateful for as you’re sitting in its presence?
If you notice, there is something special to you in your general area – go ahead and pick it up – and go through the exercise coming to your senses, noticing what you can smell, taste, feel and hear. Maybe, the object is a a rock, a flower or leaf. Hold the object in your hands and allow your senses to fully integrate again. What does the ridge of the rock feel like in the present moment? How can you be grateful for the experience?
When you’re in a meditative space connecting with the present moment, you’re essentially finding the path back to yourself. These personal anchors will allow you to move in and out of consciousness rapidly. So, moving forward, begin to observe your own inner dialogue. Whenever you feel yourself saying something negative or uncompassionate, stop, ground, and use your anchor to core yoursel
January 13, 2021
June 11, 2020