Background- this practice could be connected with a wide array of inspirations.
- Mindfulness and many other Buddhist practice speak about the importance of noting the specifics of the situation we find ourselves in as noted by our senses. Sometimes this is described as noting the ‘thisness and thusness’ of where we find ourselves.
- In the book of Genesis, Adam was given the task of naming things in the Garden of Eden.
- Francis is known to have described the living and nonliving things around him with familial titles: for example ‘sister moon’ and ‘brother sun.’
This practice is ideally done as a contemplative walk. A good contemplative walk carries a tension within it. Of course safety is ultimately important. Therefore, diverting some attention to an awareness of how to get home and ensuring that we don’t walk into an unsafe situation are very important. Walking into an unsafe situation might be failing to look both ways before we cross a street. It also might be making sure we don’t wander into neighborhood that is unsafe for us.
However, being too planful takes some of the power out of a contemplative practice. I believe in something larger than us that will guide our steps when we are willing to cede control of our destination. Even if I am wrong on that, it is clear that being too strategic and logical ends up giving over a certain measure of headspace over to the logical, planning side of our brain. As a result, we end up not being as fully contemplative as we might have hoped for.
If a walk does not make sense for you right now, much of this practice can be applied to a more sedentary approach. A practitioner might find value in applying this practice to a place they think they know very well. It can be surprising the things we discover when we look at familiar surroundings with fresh eyes. Alternatively, Finding a seat with unfamiliar surroundings can also bring new discoveries.
Before beginning the practice description, I would like to own and name the reality that this practice can feel a bit silly. The internal monologue would look rather amusing if viewed out of context. I believe that a little silliness if quite a powerful thing. Most of us (including me) are entirely too grim and somber about our spiritual practice.
1. Begin a walk with a cultivated sense of purposelessness.
2. Identify something in your field of vision. Greet and name it. (e.g. ‘hello tree with yellow leaves on the north side.’ or ‘Hi, fire hydrant with a rusty chain.’) work at noticing and naming in a way that identifies the uniqueness of this one particular thing you are seeing.
3. Note, name, and greet the next thing in your field of vision as you continue your walk. The goal is to produce a nearly nonstop litany of the things you encounter. If someone were to hear your thoughts, it might almost sound like a guided tour of the walk.
4. As you continue the walk, see if you can apply it to sounds or smells.
5. You can similarly greet feelings, thoughts and memories as they come up for you.