Morning Meditation

Send to Kindle


When I was asked the other day, if I’m still meditating, I had to admit that I haven’t sat on my cushion in months. That’s more of a winter thing and though on rainy days I might still sit, walking in the early morning before the day heats up and the humidity level gets overwhelming has taken its place.

It’s Sunday morning around seven. I’m out the door before there are many cars on the road. The neighborhood is still asleep except for one or two people walking their dogs. The bird song is the first thing that hits me. This spring we’ve had a Wood Thrush in the area, singing his heart out in search of a mate. I presume he’s found her and is off somewhere preparing a nest, since I haven’t heard him for about a week. I miss his fluid song, similar to the sound of a mountain brook. It consistently brings my stress level down and I imagine myself floating peacefully somewhere in the ether.

Even without bird feeders our yard is filled with a huge variety of birds, as are the tree-lined streets in this part of town. This morning there are Robins, Cardinals, Cat Birds, Blue Jays, Chickadees, Wrens, and a Woodpecker drumming in the distance. The only incongruity that interrupts the joyous symphony of winged creatures is a wailing siren going about the business of humanity.

The temperature is about 75 degrees. I’t muggy and the air is still. I take my sunglasses off and on as I move into shade and then into light so bright I can’t see without them. I begin counting my steps, loose track, and begin again.

When I’m meditating on my cushion, I focus on my breath … the in, the out, and the space in between. Out here that’s difficult. Having fallen last year because I wasn’t paying attention on one of my walks, I want to stay aware of where my feet are, how I lift them, and put them down. Counting helps to keep me somewhat focused until my mind again wanders.

Ten minutes in, my shirt is getting damp and my breathing is a bit more labored as I go up a hill. I’ve got a bit of a twinge in my lower back and my feet are hot, encased in athletic shoes. This is how it is walking in the summer. I allow myself to really feel it, then push away the thought of quitting and going back to my air-conditioned home. I refocus on my steps.

As I walk down fraternity row, there are actually roses blooming in one the frat house yards. When the University is in session, there are usually beer cans, liquor bottles, and discarded packaging from fast-food establishments littering every inch of ground. I like the summer look better.

As a runner brushes by me on the narrow sidewalk, I turn the corner onto a small, one-way lane where older homes stand under a magnificently dense canopy of trees. It’s always cooler here. On  this street are two gardens that I adore. Walking by slowly, they always make me smile. I want to stop and sit on the bench in the one on my left, surrounded by a graying picket fence. There are winding paths through thick beds of ferns and other shade loving plants. But I don’t even dare to stop and take a photo. I’m a private person and I assume everyone else is too.

The garden directly across the street is about the size of a postage stamp. The Ancient brick home was probably built around the turn of twentieth century, but its worn well and looks welcoming and cozy. Its short walkway to the front door, is covered with a multitude of potted plants. There is Coleus in dark maroon, with pink and lime green highlights, variegated hostas, ferns, and other plants with colorful leaves that I can’t identify. If I were to move to a smaller house without much of a yard, I’d choose this one or one like it, tucked away on a quiet street.

In my delight of seeing the gardens, I’ve again lost count of my steps. I almost tripped a few steps ago. My toes sometimes drag rather than lift off the ground. I begin again, trying to stay on count, allowing everything else fall away.

This is a quiet segment of time here. The UVA students are gone, elementary and high schools are still in session, and the tourists haven’t yet arrived. I love the bit of sleepiness the city exudes for the moment. But it won’t last long. Soon summer school will be in session and in early August students will begin returning to continue their year long studies.

Forty minutes later, on my way back down the hill toward home, I wave to a neighbor out weeding his garden. Though I’m tired, sweaty, and hot, my head is clear of the tension and worry I started the day with. I’m ready to begin the work of surviving the twists and turns of today. Will there be surprises? Boredom? New discoveries? Disappointments?

This is my morning ritual. On days when I don’t have time and need to rush from one thing to the next, I get lost in the chaos. Is this walking a meditation equal to sitting on my cushion? I think so. It’s a time for noticing, for asking questions, for being relaxed, and finding the light in my heart.

Are you a meditator? Do you have a morning ritual that you consider meditation even though you aren’t sitting on a cushion watching your thoughts pass by?


  1. I discovered waking meditation almost ten years ago now. I couldn’t sit still and focus, so cushion meditating was lost on me. But, the rhythmic motion, the sound of nature, the letting my mind run its course worked like magic to relax and center me. Since then I’ve learned to be still and go deeper while sitting still. I have yet to settle into a daily routine of meditating in the quiet way, but I do walk every day and most days it is meditative. I enjoyed your walk with you this morning and knowing Ch’ville it was easy to “be there” and take in everything you were experiencing. Thanks for sharing it with us. A special start to my day.

  2. Joan Rough says:

    Thanks so much for coming along, Dorothy. I’m glad you enjoyed it. Next time you come up this way, let’s take a walk!

  3. Joan, what a beautiful description of your walk. I was right there with you. It reminded me of the walks I used to take when we lived in Crozet. The flowers and birds were so beautiful! I remember on one of those walks, I focused on noticing sounds and then went home and wrote about them in my journal.

    I count my steps too. I never knew anyone else who does. Now I do.

    I have gotten out of the habit of a morning ritual. I used to like to do yoga by instruction on the TV up on the third story of my house. Perhaps I will again.

    Thank you for an inspiring post.

    • Joan Rough says:

      Saloma, Thanks so much for your lovely words. Yoga is also a great way to start the day and builds our awareness of how our body is feeling. I go to a yoga class on Friday mornings and always come home refreshed afterwards.

  4. Thank you for giving us some binoculars and ear phones to walk along the path with you this morning. Yes, I try to meditate every morning, and today I also had a Pilates session where the stretching and toning are all in tune with breathing in, breathing out.

    Ah . . . !

    • Joan Rough says:


      Doing Pilates just like Yoga is a time to focus on our bodies and how they feel as we work them. It’s about knowing what happens when we move this way or that way. It’s all meditation in my book which really is all about just being aware.

  5. This is a lovely inspiring post Joan!
    To me, meditation is a label we give for mindful sitting or walking. Yet we can bring mindful focus to whatever we are doing, and however we are being.
    I like Jon Kabat Zinn’s words ” Mindfulness is awareness, cultivated by paying attention in a sustained and particular way: on purpose, in the present moment, and non judgmentally.”
    It really isn’t about the action itself, but the intention to be present in the moment.

    • Joan Rough says:

      Val, You are so right. I often get the chores I hate most done by making them into meditations. Being aware of what is on the floor when I vacuum or washing the dinner dishes after a meal can all bring us to the same place as sitting on a cushion with eyes closed. I love John Kabat Zinn’s words and he was the first to help me realize that simply living life with awareness is a meditation.

  6. Joan — I love the detailed description of your walking meditation. You painted such a vivid word picture it felt like I was walking at your side, hearing and seeing the same things as you.

    I use a “Buddha Butt” ( for my daily sitting meditation, and I typically meditate during yoga (restorative, not pretzel-twists). When I’m out and about (usually with Len and Willa), I observe my surroundings, trying to notice things that might otherwise go unseen.

  7. Joan Rough says:


    I’ve always wanted to try a “Bhudda Butt,” but haven’t had the opportunity. It does look comfy.

    Meditating in whatever form for me is about awareness with no expectations and watching the clouds of thought pass by. So glad you’re into it.

  8. Hi Joan,

    I’ve never meditated consistently, at least not the traditional idea of it, but I think whatever you choose to do that will focus your mind and being aware of life’s blessings certainly counts. Walking and observing Nature is beautiful; being mindful as you wash dishes, dance, do Yoga, or rock the baby all count.

    Thanks for taking us along on your walk this morning. I enjoyed the sights, sounds, and reflections.

  9. Joan Rough says:

    Thanks, Flora. Anything can become a meditation if we choose to live in the moment and allow ourselves awareness.

  10. Funny that I read this today after I pulled out the meditation cushion I first purchased in 1995 and have used sporadically since then. The yoga classes I attend twice a week have actually created a desire to sit again. Thanks for another gentle nudge and the reminder that meditation is more than sitting on a cushion.