“Don’t walk behind me; I may not lead.
Don’t walk in front of me; I may not follow.
Just walk beside me and be my friend.”
The industrial growth society is beset with opportunities for superficial connection and much of this in the form of business meetings, although the blessings described here apply equally well to less formal get-togethers. There are helpful and not-so-helpful methods for holding meetings and of starting conversations, of course. But most of the conventional kind these days involve spending endless hours sitting round a desk or table somewhere inside a building or car. Important decisions might be debated and discussed, but how connecting, creative and life-serving do decisions taken under these circumstances turn out to be? And how supportive of our wellbeing is it for us to be spending so much of our time cut off from the natural world and deprived of our need for physical exercise and deeper connection with others?
One of the exercises we sometimes do on Conscious Communication courses is a ‘walking talk’. This is where participants are asked to go for a walk together, somewhere quiet in nature such as a local park, in order to discuss an issue important to them. Participants then return to our venue and review how the experience was for them, compared to how they imagine a similar meeting might have been if conducted in the conventional way, inside and sat down.
When we walk in nature alongside someone, rather than facing them across a table or desk, we tend to spend less time in direct eye contact. Ironically, this can feel less threatening and more intimate – a bit like ‘pillow talk’, where the lights are out and it becomes easier to broach more challenging subjects.
If you’re engaged in a walking talk with someone you don’t know very well, you could try increasing your connection with each other in a gentle, non-verbal way by walking or breathing in time with your partner. This can also feel particularly supportive if the subject matter is challenging. By aligning the natural, easy, physical rhythms of your walk, you will most probably notice yourself feeling more ‘on the same wavelength’ and that your discussion proceeds more smoothly.
If the relationship is a close one, between intimate partners for example, or family members, you might choose to hold hands or arms for all or part of the trip. Touching often makes it easier to get in touch with our feelings and express our needs. It can also facilitate being able to hear the needs and feelings of another with compassion and understanding.
What are the blessings for this process of being somewhere quiet in nature?
A change of environment from what we’re used to seems to have the effect of broadening the mind and of helping us think more creatively. There is a shared joy of life, absorbed through all our senses, that transfuses the conversation. Being in nature, especially coupled with some gentle exercise, can be therapeutic in that it generates endorphins (‘happy chemicals’) in the brain. And then there’s the connection, the reminder, of what really matters – what’s alive around us and within us – the larger context of our communications.
Walking whilst talking also confers blessings at an energetic level. Tuning into the natural rhythms of this activity we find it easier to listen between the words to what’s not being said. It is often feels more natural to allow peaceful, connecting silences and to be receptive to non-verbal communication.
Any stressful energies of agitation, restlessness and pent up aggression can dissipate as we feel the benefits of being grounded by the almost constant contact with the earth. (To enhance this effect, you could try walking barefoot.)
These are just some of the many blessings that we might experience from a walking talk.
What others are you aware of?
What stories do you have of how a walking talk has made a difference in your life or that of someone else?