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Take a Listening Walk

Don't think. Don't talk. Just listen.

Photo of a page of a four-year-old's drawings of a crow, car and aeroplane, coloured haphazardly in scribbly blue pencil. The crow is smiling!
Drawings done by my grandson Reef after he went on The Listening Walk at his kindergarten. The crease is because he posted it to me!

It’s time all of us grownups went to kindergarten!


Kindergarten simply translates from German to “children’s garden”. The first kindergarten was started by Friedrich Froebel in 1840. He called it “Garden of Children”. It included land where the children planted and cared for flowers, fruit, and vegetables.


Now we happily send young children to the nearest kindergarten to enjoy outdoor play and nature, knowing it’s very good for them. But we forget that it’s good for us too.


My grandson Reef, who is four, recently posted me a letter. Inside was a drawing he’d done at kindergarten after going on what his teacher called “The Listening Walk”. The children in his class went for a walk. They didn’t talk. They listened. And when they got back to class, they drew what they had heard. Because he lives in the city, he heard cars, an aeroplane, and a crow.


My Listening Walk


Towards the end of each day, I go for a walk with Rob. We invariably talk. But after receiving Reef’s letter, we decided to take a Listening Walk. It wasn’t a slow Meditation Walk, such as Thich Nhat Hanh recommends. We walked just as briskly as normal, but we listened to the sounds around us instead of talking. We also tried not to think either, because that’s just talking to ourselves in our head, which, most of the time, isn’t helpful or conducive to peace.


What did I hear on my Listening Walk?


I heard the autumn call of the Moaning Frogs (Heleioporus eyrei); the rustle of karri and peppermint tree leaves; the awkward flapping of a swamphen’s wings as it flew away, barely cresting the reeds; a distant cow mooing; muffled slithering in the undergrowth that was most likely a tiger snake; our crunching footsteps on the gravel; my breaths, getting louder the further we walked.


Of course, some chattering thoughts intruded, but when that happened, I consciously chose to tune into the sounds the environment was continually offering me. I also found that narrowing my eyes helped me pay more attention to what was reaching my ears.


It was a satisfying walk. What was left unsaid can be kept for another day.


The Benefits of a Listening Walk


Like Froebel, I think of children like this:


Children are like tiny flowers; they are varied and need care, but each is beautiful alone and glorious when seen in the community of peers. 


I also think that adults are like tiny flowers, too.

We need care, and we’re all beautiful and glorious.

And, like children,  we need to go on walks as many days as is possible, and it benefits us greatly to go on a Listening Walk more often than we do.


A Listening Walk isn’t time out of life. A Listening Walk is life. It’s life as we seldom experience it.


A Listening Walk is a tuning into a wider and deeper awareness.


A Listening Walk is an opening up of ourselves to All That Is.


A Listening Walk can be done anywhere: in a garden; in a busy city street; beside running water; in an office corridor.


All you have to do is put one foot in front of the other and listen.


Let’s all go back to kindergarten, at least once a day, and take a Listening Walk.


Sun setting on the horizon. Pinky-oragne clouds in pale blue sky. Trees in shoadow on the right. Fence posts lining the gravel road on the right.
A typical sundown scene on our daily walk on gravel roads near Evergreen.

 With love, Marlane 

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