Dr. Grauer's Column - How to Take A Walk
How to Take A Walk
Miho Gwiazdowski, our long-serving, extremely talented Japanese language and culture teacher, gave me a holiday gift this year. It was “A Little Book of Japanese Contentments”. I shared a chapter with our faculty at our “back to school faculty workshops” in January and I could tell they felt it was beautiful and worthwhile. So, I will share it with you all.
The chapter I shared was on how to take a walk.
In schools, there is a lot of talk about getting outside: forest bathing, forest schools, nature walks, outdoor education. What a terrible thing if education happens 90% in chairs, indoors! There is so much more to notice, so many ways of learning joyfully. Taking a walk this way is called Shinrin-yoku. Try it with your class, family or friends. There are six, easy steps to this enlightening way of walking:
1. Leave your devices at home. In order to immerse in nature and get the real benefits of Shinrin-yoku, you must not receive push notification, calls, or anything that takes you out of the forest or natural setting, physically and mentally. Everything but the trail can wait!
2. Don’t follow a set path. Your path is not predetermined: follow the sights, sounds, and smells. Distractions will want to pull you away from these sensations, so you might blindly follow a set path—don’t. No maps. If you stumble upon a landmark on your way, that’s fine, but your excursion is only about what you notice, what calls to you.
What I love about this direction is that it is so much in concert with what we know about how and why students learn well—when the curriculum is lifelike and built around natural curiosity.
3. Soak up the atmosphere. Forget your watch. Shinrin-yoku is not about getting from point A to point B, but about savoring moments of stillness. Shinrin-yoku is about wandering with no fixed destination. There is no purpose. There is no efficiency. This about peace of mind, not fitness, not destination. Notice light, notice wind, notice footfalls, notice bird sounds, notice color, notice your breath…
As a teacher, what I love about this direction is that when students wander aimlessly around ideas and resources, off the clock, they can engage deeply and develop their intuitions and entrepreneurship—you can’t do that in a textbook (even though we need those, too).
4. Quiet, please. If you are with others, by agreement, some part of the time shall be in silence, allowing for quiet reflection. This is not a time for chatting—it is a time for listening to your own body and to nature. Have the cup of tea later on. You can count tree rings if you want, but key out the plants later on.
5. Practice mindfulness. I know there are many pressing matters in your busy life. This is your mental break. Right now, this is your escape—you deserve it, you can handle it. Just you in a natural setting, breathing, seeing. Afterwards, you will see things more clearly.
6. Take five, or ten, or twenty. You can sit and be. You can stop and smell things or feel textures. Leave the fitness tracker at home. As we said in the 60's: “Be here now.”
At The Grauer School, we define intelligence as “sensitivity to the environment.” What’s your environment? What do you picture? Let’s expand our vision of the environment we are in or are called to be in. There is a ton going on even without interruptive digital notices, and as we notice it, we reclaim sides of our intelligence that get ignored in the daily bustle. I recommend Shinrin-yoku to all my classes: if every class and every family practiced this from time to time, we’d have a very intelligent community, and a joyful one.
If you try this, I’d like to hear how it goes for you.
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