In the hustle and bustle of city life, it’s not often we slow down and take in all there is to experience. Even in urban areas, if you pay attention, you can hear the call of a bird, notice your favorite color in shop windows, and look up at the vast sky above. In this guided meditation, we slow our roll and take in the beauty of our surroundings, no matter where we find ourselves.
A Guided Walking Meditation for the City
A Guided Walking Meditation to Notice the Beauty Around Us—Even in the City with Kazumi Igus
- Let’s start with taking three deep breaths.
- As we begin, I want to bring your attention to how you are moving if you’re walking through the city or trying to get from one place to another. How fast are you moving? How are you walking? What’s your pace? Do you have a destination and a timeframe? Or do you have some space? Wherever you are, slow it down just a little bit. If you can afford to walk really slow and won’t hold up traffic, you’re welcome to. And if you’re not walking and you’re in a wheelchair, you’re welcome to slow down. If you really need to be somewhere, try to relax into this space, whatever it is. Slow and steady, but maybe not too slow depending on where you are.
- Bring your attention to how you are walking—your balance. Are you taking a step? Start to notice the small changes, the muscles involved. And whatever you’re thinking, all of it is OK. You’re just noticing where you are in this space right now.
- Then, acknowledging that our minds sometimes race and we have a lot of things going on in our lives, just take a deep breath and bring your attention back to each step. Start to settle into a rhythm. Notice every muscle that’s involved with creating this locomotion to propel you forward and shift your weight. Maybe if you’re in a wheelchair, you’re using your arms. How are the hands involved? Are you holding something? Maybe a backpack, bag, or someone’s hand. Focus on really being present with your physical space, your physical body. Take a deep breath. As we move through our urban environment, we start to notice other things outside of ourselves.
- The first thing I want you to bring your attention to is the smell around you. Depending on where you are, that can be pleasant or unpleasant. Breathing in, can you identify a particular smell? Maybe you’re getting a lot of smells all at once. Maybe you notice the change in smells as you move past different areas. And as you experience these smells, notice what you’re thinking. Are you creating a story? Are you finding yourself wanting to be near a pleasant smell or maybe pushing away, trying to avoid an unpleasant smell? If that’s the case, that’s all right. All of it is normal. Just experience the smell and label it as pleasant, unpleasant, or neutral. See if you can identify pizza, poop, grass, or whatever it is.
- Then take a deep breath and shift your attention to sights. What can you see? Start by focusing on a color that brings you joy. If it’s a bright color you might notice it in wrappers from candy or chips, maybe in ads, signs, storefront windows that have lots of flyers. If it’s something more earthy, like green or brown, you might start to notice it in nature—the trees and plants. Just pick your color and start noticing it on your journey. Even if the color is on a man-made object like clothing, hats, backpacks, signs, and things like that, that’s a part of the urban environment. If it’s flowers, trees, plants, we’re just noticing the natural portions of the urban environment. Both are necessary.
- Taking another deep breath, we shift to looking at nature. Starting with animals. And for this, let’s maybe not focus on people and their pets. Let’s look for the animals that exist in this environment without being owned by a person. You might notice lizards depending on where you are in the world, cats that don’t have owners, squirrels, insects.
- I’d like to bring your attention to the birds. Birds are what we call an indicator species. They tell you if your environment is healthy. So look up. Look around. Listen. You might even need to stop for a moment. If you can hear birds, start to listen for the variations in their calls, maybe even a different species. If you have mockingbirds, sometimes it’s the same bird making a bunch of different calls. Really stop to listen to it as though they’re telling you something. If the sound of traffic muffles some of the calls, it’s OK. The urban environment is complex. It has both manmade and natural things. If you can see the birds, notice their behaviors, the coloration, and any other details that might pop out at you. And notice your thoughts while seeing or hearing the birds. You might be able to see or hear seagulls if you’re near a coast, rock doves, a.k.a. pigeons, finches, sparrows, chickadees. Notice if you can identify any of these species by site or by call. Take a deep breath, noticing where the birds are. Probably in plants, trees, bushes, or on grass.
- Those of us who live in urban environments often have plant blindness and don’t notice the plants. Take a moment to notice leaves and if you can see any patterns in how those plants are growing. Are there any flowers? Maybe you can recognize a specific species. Can you name it? Take a deep breath. Experience being around plants and animals in nature.
- And as you continue moving keep noticing your color, new plants, new animals. Notice what you’re thinking and if you’re telling yourself a story or if you’re asking a lot of questions. And if you are, take a deep breath and then focus back on the details of the experience—the shape of the leaves, the color of the feathers. As humans, we cannot survive without the natural parts of the environment. So it’s very important for us to be mindful of how our movement through the world affects the nature around us and how the nature around us can affect our experience. Take another deep breath. If there’s a big tree or a squirrel that’s standing there looking at you, or a plant that’s intriguing, take a moment to stop.
- Be grateful for its part of this urban environment. Expressing some gratitude that you are even able to experience it today. Taking a deep breath. Finding your walking rhythm. Slow but steady, or whatever works for you. Continuing to notice your color, plants, the animals. And continuing to take deep breaths.