Walk & Talk
April is a truly beautiful time of the year to go walking or running. When I go out walking or running I enjoy connecting with the sound of birdsong. There are some sounds that are very special, like a woodpecker hammering a tree or the exciting sound of swans as they take flight. Trying to stay in tune with the songs that birds create helps me to develop a softer, more kindly, approach to my walking and running, because if I make too much noise then the bird that I am hearing or watching may depart. I become more mindful of taking a slow and steady step, not placing too much strain on my legs or too much vibration on the ground beneath me. I thank the birds for their beauty and I am in awe of the birds that I see diving and then floating upon invisible aerial waves, wishing that I had that ability.
Another dimension to my walking and running that I have discovered in April is the power of landscapes. The terrain where I walk and run is quite hilly and I enjoy reaching the top of a hill and then just cruising along its summit, as I survey the land around me. I notice the many different fields with their different colours – green, brown, yellow, grey. I see the hedgerows between the fields, creating a patchwork of boundaried sections. I notice how some fields are bathed in sunlight whilst others are dark and shadowed.
I have noticed that by looking at the landscape around me, and gaining a sense of perspective and distance regarding what I see, helps me in terms of gaining a perspective over my own life. Some parts of my life contain shadows, difficult periods when I have felt alone and in despair. Some parts of my life contain beautiful birdsong and colourful flowers, also joyful and sensitive creatures like hares or horses. By taking the time to walk or run and reflect upon the landscape I am better able to put the difficult and the joyful times to my life in perspective. My life is a patchwork of different terrain and different colour but the important thing is that I continue to walk or run, I continue to feel the sunshine on my face or the raindrops on my back. I am grounded, in the moment, not overwhelmed by any particular experience or life history. I can observe my life without getting stuck within any particular field; I can place a boundary over a challenging experience as a way of containing this.
In counselling we too can gain perspective over our lives, the challenges, the devastating experiences, alongside any joy. In this way we do not forget about times when we felt positive emotions, when we felt connected. We can draw boundaries over experiences we would rather forget, so that we can appreciate the here and now rather than getting bogged down. We can learn to draw attention to beauty, to be kind to ourselves and to let go of any anxiety, fear, shame, guilt or anger. Wisdom is there for us to behold.
Walking by its very nature can be therapeutic. Walking can slow down time, we can lose ourselves in the moment of simply putting one foot infront of the other. Walking can allow us to observe Mother Nature, the birds, flowers, trees, water. We can listen to the sounds around us and appreciate the here and now. When applying walking to therapy, this can help to break down barriers in that you can walk side by side with a counsellor and as result feel less awkward and embarrassed. If you are a shy or a quiet person then walking next to a counsellor can help take off the pressure of having to say anything. Simply walking and being in the moment can be enough. It also helps that you don’t have to look at the counsellor’s face. Walking can provide any conversation with a point of focus, something you see or hear or notice. It can help break down any barriers to communication. I enjoy the walk and talk sessions that I provide at Rutland Water because Rutland Water is such a beautiful and inspiring location. The boats, birds, sheep and landscape are simply amazing and it can be deeply satisfying and therapeutic to walk along and talk at leisure, in a relaxed moment and setting.
Being outside and surrounded by beautiful scenery, this can help us gain perspective on an issue that may be troubling us. By being mindful of how it is that we observe the nature around us, we can learn to apply the same skills to observing our own lives and significant experiences that happen to us. We can also practise slowing things down. Nature has its own pace, its own flow, and if we can learn to experience this then we can take this knowledge into our everyday lives. We can learn to relax and to de-stress. We can also practise breathing and connecting with nature, and in doing so, connecting with ourselves.
Walk and talk, and run and reflect sessions, are a way of having therapy outdoors. Walking and talking, or running and reflecting, is a more dynamic way of processing and exploring issues in our lives than sitting face to face with a counsellor. Walking or running side by side with the counsellor can make us feel less inhibited, and somehow walking and running can help us to view something in a new way. It is a creative process.
Given that so many people live in cities and urbanised areas these days, it is important to take time out from these environments and to go and connect with nature. The walk and talk and run and reflect sessions that I hold are based at Rutland Water, a beautiful reservoir in the heart of England, with stunning views. I invite you to join me.