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Let's Go Outside | Commentary by Evelyne Vandersande
| Thursday, Oct 2, 2014

evelynevandersande_mugWe have many regularly scheduled hikes at Placerita Canyon State Park. The idea of a hike is well understood by the public at large: You go from point A to point B as fast as possible; the rewards will be that your health will improve, your muscles will get some exercise, and you might even lose some weight in the process.

Doing that in an open space with fresh air makes it a hike. There is no question about what a hike is; the term is widely used.

Then you have a bird walk or a hike with a docent. The goal changes drastically, and so does the pace. If it is a bird walk, you might not walk much at all, but you might go to an area with trees or water and stay there quietly, trying to identify the birds that fly around that area.

A botany walk with a docent might start at a good pace like a normal hike but stop suddenly to inspect a flower or a plant. Identification books appear from backpacks, and comments fly through the air, with discussion about different plants. Those hikers might even go back to check on a previous plant to compare.

The hiker who wanted only to cover the maximum number of miles in the minimum amount of time would be totally confused if he were to meet one of these other groups on the trail. They are dressed the same way and are carrying the same bottled water, but they are an unknown species exhibiting strange behavior.

“Walking meditation” with Deb Clem is a new and welcomed program at Placerita, but there was an ocean of incomprehension when it was first introduced.

Here were a few of the remarks I heard: “Meditation? Don’t you have to be sitting and chanting to do that?” “Your eyes have to be closed to meditate.” “Is this associated with yoga?” “You have to be careful. If you are meditating, your mind is on something else; you might fall on the path. You really need to look at the path.” “That is something new. Walking or hiking is a relaxation by itself, so how can meditation enhance it?”

I will let Deb provide the best description of her new program:


debclemmeditation1Walking meditation with Deb Clem

Life has been getting more complex and stressful. One way to deal with the realities of life’s stresses and increasingly busy times is to connect with nature or take on the practice of meditation. You don’t have to sit and be still to meditate. Why not combine the benefits of meditation and connecting with nature?

Walking meditation is an ancient practice where you are in a meditative state while your eyes are open (aware of surroundings while relaxed and focused on the present moment) while doing a conscious, slow walk. It will open up all of your senses and awareness. Deb will guide you in this process while experiencing the benefits of nature.

Deb will give brief instructions at the start and then lead the walk in silence. Hikers and cyclists may pass by, but we stay in meditation, just noticing them and stepping to the side if needed. If other hikers say “Good morning,” you may acknowledge them with a smile, but please remain silent during the meditation part.

You will stop at a bench on the trail to sit for a moment to reflect and observe the surrounding area, noticing a new way of seeing, hearing and feeling. You will then share any experiences you wish to share, and any questions will be answered. After that point, you can continue on your own, hiking or slow-walking to continue the experience. Or you may return to the Nature Center and Deb will offer some beneficial exercises that can be done while walking.


canyontrailThe walking meditation is a new program offered by Deb Clem, the last Thursday of the month at 9 a.m. It lasts up to one hour and takes place on the Canyon Trail. Deb is going to bring us back to what is important and help provide a bit of peacefulness in this turbulent world.

Come and join her. It is free and open to all who want to share the experience.

I hope it makes more sense now, and you know what to expect. I am pretty sure you have done it before by yourself without calling it “walking meditation.” If you go hiking with a friend, most of the hike will be accompanied by friendly chat, and that is very pleasant, but sometimes you want to hike on your own. The problem is that all of your worries and concerns swirl through your mind and it is hard to quiet them. The list of chores you have to do when you come back becomes too loud in your head and you cannot enjoy the fresh air and beautiful sights around you.

I have found the best way to shut off all of this inside noise is to concentrate on the moment, focusing on the small things around me: the sounds of the wind, a bird call, or the way the sun shines through the leaves. Being on the trail is the time where I can offer my best prayers. They consist of a long list of things I’m grateful for, starting with the beautiful nature around me and the fact that my legs can carry me to enjoy the day. This list of thanks has a way of quieting your mind and making you reevaluate what is really important in life.

The world is such a magical place. We can never be grateful enough for so much beauty. It is nice as well as important for our well-being to go slow and pay attention.

I am so pleased Deb can teach you different techniques to reach more peace and enjoy Placerita. Come join her on the last Thursday of the month at Placerita at 9 a.m.


Evelyne Vandersande has been a docent at the Placerita Canyon Nature Center for 28 years. She lives in Newhall.



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  1. Erin Taylor says:

    So glad they started this! I already do walking meditation by myself in Agua Dulce where I live. I choose to total free my mind of thoughts as much as possible and just observe all the wonder of nature. 45 minutes and the exercise too and it is wonderful.
    I take time later to sit in gratitude and reflect.

  2. Tessa Lucero says:

    @Laura AndRick Harms, Placerita Nature Center is south of the 14 freeway. Exit the 14 at Placerita Canyon Road, turn east (away from Santa Clarita), drive up the road about 1.5 miles and it’s on your right. There is ample parking, a visitor/ranger center, and there are several trails leading from the nature center up into the mountains or along Placerita Creek. Well worth a visit!

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