Have you been grappling with a problem for a while and the answer still feels out of reach?
Perhaps you've already tried more conventional means and you're still struggling to know what to do?
You might feel stuck?
And will certainly be open to try something a little different to get a different perspective?
That's where a Landscaping Your Life (LYL) walk comes in.
During the walk it's as if the landscape in front of you becomes a mirror for the problem - the patterns you observe are metaphors for the patterns in the situation.
Patterns you can then translate into insight and action in the real life situation
Which means paths, ruts, deadends, corners, creeks, vantage points, woods and trees become your canvas for insight.
If you need no further persuasion to try a LYL walk for yourself do go straight to the instructions below.
If however you need more of a sense of the possible why not read a blog about what happened when the walker was struggling with motivation and get up and go. The patterns observed are shown in this map of the walk.
Landscaping Your Life with Alison Smith podcast episodes that share highlights from LYL walks include:
Although each episode uses nature in a variety of ways to prove insight to problems - so you could pop over to this index and pick an episode that resonates with how you're feeling and get insight.
Here's what one person said about a 90 minute virtual session with me in my office in Scotland asking questions and them walking around in Florida.
Instructions for undertaking a Landscaping Your Life walk
The aim is to go for a walk and notice patterns in nature that help make sense – metaphorically at least – of a current situation that you would like more clarity and a different perspective about. A situation you can give a score out of 10 on how resourceful or clear you currently feel about.
Every walk is unique and the following questions can only help guide you. For example, I may mention a path and what you see is a stream and yet you’re still able to answer those questions. At other times you may be able to ask yourself questions about the landscape in front of you. And at other times you may want to revisit a set of questions you answered earlier in the walk at a different location later on.
It’s not however about taking the issue on the walk with you and getting it out and thinking about it at every stop. It’s about allowing your more creative side to look for different perspectives as you walk, and knowing you can let your logical mind make sense of them once the walk is finished. Which means allow yourself to explore the patterns and elements of the landscape you’re walking in metaphorically – don’t over analyse them.
Before you start walking look around at the landscape and take a few moments to allow your eyes to adjust to what they’re seeing, your ears to adjust to what you’re hearing, and body to adjust to what it’s feeling.
As you walk take a further 5 minutes or so to familiarise yourself with the landscape. If you come to an interesting element in the landscape stop – otherwise just allow yourself to explore the landscape noticing what you notice.
There’s no right or wrong on this walk just the patterns you notice – this first stop might be 2 minutes into the walk or 20. Although try not to be too logical about stopping at a particular place, especially if it’s a walk you’re familiar with. Allow your stopping to be a little less logically determined and more intuitive.
Take time to consider your answer. If nothing comes to mind you may want to walk a little further or look behind you or in another direction.
Stop and notice where you’ve been putting your attention – were you looking down, or up, or looking in the direction you were going or anywhere else. What happens if you focus in a different direction?
You may also want to consider how slowly or quickly you were moving through the landscape and consider the appropriateness of that speed in relation to your objective.
Continue walking in the same or different direction at the same or different speed paying attention in the same or different direction.
Stop and notice how paying attention differently has impacted how you’re feeling?
Look back the way you have come – what do you notice?
Crossroads & Paths
When you come across a crossroads pay attention to how you make a decision about which path to take.
Stopping rather than continually walking on provides us with a pause to reflect, a pause to decide whether we’re going in the right direction or need to change our path or destination.
Going Round in Circles or other idioms
If you resonate with the saying going round in circles, you may want to try the instructions shared in the free how to stop going rounds in circles pdf.
If you’re not going round in circles but for example feel like you’re stuck in a rut you may want to find a rut to step in and out of.
On the other hand if you want to turn a corner in your life – find a corner to turn and notice what you notice before, during and after you’ve turned the corner.
Series 2 of the Landscaping your Life with Alison Smith podcast demonstrates how to use nature in the situations outlined
Map & Compass
Maps, compasses, binoculars, rucksacks and walking shoes are all resources that can help when we’re walking to any destination.
Another opportunity to pause, notice patterns or elements in the landscape, notice your relationship to the end destination, notice where you’ve been and where you’re going. Consider how these change during the day, seasons or years.
Finish the walk
Firstly reflect on the walk and make a mental, written or recorded note of what patterns you noticed and insights you had.
The insight that shifts your thinking about the current situation may happen within the first minute of the walk, there may have been many, it may not yet be clear, or you may just feel more resourceful and positive about the situation with no logical understanding of how or why that’s happened.
There’s no right or wrong just what is – and an allowing for what ever transpired to be what was needed at this time. After all a walk out in nature is its own remedy for many problems in our lives.
Once you’ve summarised the walk in the patterns and elements noticed you can now apply these in turn to the situation you wanted insight on.
What do you notice?
As you think about the situation what score out 10 would you now give about how resourceful or clear you feel about it.
Insight is all well and good and action brings it into reality.
You may have a whole action plan in mind – or not.
The important thing is what one action, however small, can you take within the next 24 hours, 12 would be even better, to reinforce the insight and move towards clarity or resolution in the current situation?
Who can you tell about this commitment to action? Someone who can help keep you accountable for your action?
Every LYL walk is different even if you’re walking in the same landscape so once you’re familiar with the types of questions to ask yourself any walk in nature can be an opportunity to obtain different perspectives on any challenge your facing.
If you'd like to have Alison as your facilitator for your LYL walk (because she's great at asking questions to help uncover what's missing) do get in touch firstname.lastname@example.org +44(0)7770 538159 - sessions usually last 1.5-3 hours and often just one session is all that's needed to get the insight you need. There's a post sharing more about the LYL coaching available and Alison's work with teams.
And as the above testimonial suggests we don't have to be in the same place for you to get the transformation.
Alison's book Can't see the wood for the trees - landscaping your life to get back on track also shares more about the different ways you can use nature's landscapes as metaphors for your life.