*Parent Ambassador from Anderson Center for Autism Susanna O'Brien's two sons, Matty and Daniel, on the Walkway Over the Hudson. Below, she shares her experiences with walking meditation.
It was a cold morning, one of those deceiving days of early spring. I have taken to carrying extra outer clothing and shoes in my car for any type of weather walk. I wasn’t going to walk today, but somehow my car led me to the Walkway Bridge. Well, I’m here I thought, so I might as well. I rummaged through the extra wind jackets, hats and scarves to come up with a suitable outfit, only my tunic shirt was long and sticking out below my jacket. Not a pretty sight but it worked. I had thought earlier that morning that I would text a friend to walk with, but sometimes I like to walk alone, where energies shift from maintaining a conversation to clearing the head.
After 10 minutes I finally got the song out of my head that was on the radio just before I turned the car off. Peaceful respite…….. So what comes into my head and becomes my meditation is walking itself, and how much a part of my life it is.
When we were young, there was always walking, my memory of being walked in a carriage isn’t there but with 5 children, my mom was always walking us to a park and back, to a neighbor’s house, 2 places off a list I am sure she had in her head. On Cape Cod we could walk to the beach from my grandmother’s house, a good thing considering there were 7 of us, 8 with my grandmother. If you wanted to leave early from the beach you could, a win, win. We walked at the beach for what seemed like forever. If someone was cranky, “take a walk!” Walking has always been a remedy of sorts. Most holidays had the after dinner/before dessert walk would get at least some of us out of the house while the table was cleared for the anticipated array of sweets and coffee. The big ones being Easter and Thanksgiving dinners. There were walks from our first farmhouse to Quackenbush General Store for ice cream or candy. When my dad lived in NYC, there was a lot of walking, and he had a pace that you almost couldn’t keep up with. In college we walked everywhere, very few kids had cars at school back in the day.
As I am walking on the bridge I start thinking about everyone walking by, what their meditation might be…...I bet so many problems are solved, decisions made and relationships strengthened or dissolved while walking. My memory grabs hold of walks like that in my life, that become like vivid dreams.
We walk a lot as a family, to be together away from the pull of house chores and technology, to just enjoy whatever spot we have chosen that day. This is a time when Matty, our younger son, gets to be part of the family, and understands our walking and enjoys it. He has been going on walks and hikes with us since he could walk. Matty lives at the Anderson Center for Autism in Staatsburg NY, as a residential student with autism. The campus provides the opportunity for lots of walking, nestled by the Hudson River with stunning views. Anderson has a parent/staff group, AFP (Anderson Family Partners), that meets once a month. We discuss everything about our loved ones and how we can always look for ways to improve the quality of life for these special needs individuals who call Anderson home. Recently I met a new mom at an AFP meeting whose daughter had just come to live at Anderson and she didn’t know the area. Having lived here in the Hudson Valley most of my life I decided to put together a document for Anderson families, “Autism friendly hikes in the Hudson Valley”, which you can now find on their website. These are tried and truly wonderful hikes (walks).
So cheers, walk on………….what will be your meditation?