The Shaman’s Walk
One of the many things I learned about in my final stages of my apprenticeship in Tuva, Siberia, was – The Shaman’s Walk.
Like many things in eastern wisdom, it sounds so simple…so easy to understand…and perform. Physically, you walk upright, moving forwards in reasonably long strides, letting your arms swing loosely. And you observe everything round about you.
It seems so obvious, doesn’t it? Until you start doing it. Especially, if like me, you walk into the same park every day. A common with lots of strikingly different trees, not planted in tidy rows, with wee lochs with islands in them.
The moment I leave the house, the shaman’s walk begins, in the five minute journey past a set of traffic lights and on to the initial wide expanse of green.
On the way to the park, I notice people in the street, observing them, figuring what they are doing, where they are going, what mood they might be in… And in the streets, there is a big variety of trees in the pavements, their shape and condition giving you an idea of what to expect on the common.
Doing it every day, and observing closely, I note changes….small changes…in the leaves of some of the trees. Like in the Spring, when some trees can be full and dense, other types of trees may not have any leaves at all. Yet. The reverse, when Autumn calls.
The scene also changes every day. Even within a day. I can go up in the morning….but if I go again in the afternoon, a different level of sunlight might change the whole feel of the place.
There’s the wind. Or absence of wind. I learned to look at the horizon on the larger flat parts of the common, looking at the trees and how they move in the wind, some more than others.
And there are the birds. Some days a lot of crows. Other days none. And even though it’s inland, every now and again, I walk through the trees to the lochs – and find a huge gathering of seagulls.
I look for the solitary heron. And I will only see one every three or four weeks. That rarity might be why, back home in Scotland, it’s a good luck omen to see a heron. The heron is not always in the same place. One time I noticed it in the dark, under a small bridge between the two lochs.
I deliberately take a different route each time I go to the common. That way I am seeing things from different angles. And sometimes I will come across the heron in a different place, a hidden spot I wouldn’t have encountered if I had been going in the opposite direction.
While I was pretty observant before, I do see a lot more now. And that makes the observer closer in feeling and understanding to the whole of nature.
But there’s one thing in particular I see, and appreciate much more now – and that’s the sky.
As I walk, I stop and look around – and up. And if I stand still, for example, I can see how fast some of the clouds are moving across the sky. And by observing closely, I sometimes see some clouds going in one direction, and others behind them, going in the opposite direction.
At the same time, if I look at the sky completely, I can see that on some days, the feel and look of the sky can be dramatically different in some patches. There could be very dark and stormy sections on my left, say, but on my right, it’s fluffy white clouds on a background of stunning blue sky.
And more than anything else, the sky can fully change, from one part of the day to another. You can have no clouds at all, just a blue sky…then a few hours later a complete grey cloud sky with no blue at all.
And there’s the light. Some days I just notice that the grass looks different…and so do the leaves on the trees, because there is a different characteristic in the light. The only time I really noticed that kind of thing in the past, was just before thunder and lightning, when you get an electric light feel in the atmosphere.
There is more to say, and more to see.
And the more you walk and observe like this in nature, the more you can observe and sense what’s going on in the heart of cities, too. And eventually you might reach the situation where you feel your feet are hardly touching the ground.