In English culture, owning your own house and garden is a big deal. We don’t always pay enough attention to the beautiful green spaces that anyone can visit – regardless of their income, career, age or social status.

Image by Anne Marie Briscombe

Avenue of Plane Trees, Green Park, by Anne Marie Briscombe

There are eight Royal Parks in London: together, they make up 5,000 acres of opportunity for fresh air, picnics, exercise, getting in touch with nature and, of course, mindfulness practice.

Pelican in the sun, St. James's Park, by Anne Marie Briscombe

Pelican in the sun, St. James’s Park, by Anne Marie Briscombe

The Royal Parks press office gave me permission to share these excellent images of the parks: in this post I’m sharing spring and summertime images from Green Park, St. James’s Park and Hyde Park, in the next post I’ll share images from Regents Park and Greenwich Park.

The parks might not look quite this picturesque every day, but they definitely beat spending your lunch break sitting hunched over a computer, gobbling a Pret a Manger sandwich 🙂

Boating on the serpentine, Hyde Park, by Indusfoto Ltd

Boating on the serpentine, Hyde Park, by Indusfoto Ltd

The Royal Parks are also ideal for trying out a walking meditation practice. To do a walking meditation practice, you simply need to devote your full attention to your present experience whilst walking. Notice the soles of your shoes as they make contact with the earth, notice any sensations in the body, any external sounds in the park, the shapes and colours of the trees, water and animals. Every time your mind wanders away to past or future thoughts, take it back to your present experience. That’s it – nothing too complicated!

Horse Guard's Parade, St. James's Park, by Indusfoto Ltd

Horse Guard’s Parade, St. James’s Park, by Indusfoto Ltd

I recently came across the following advice for walking meditation by Vietnamese Zen Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh:

“In our daily lives, we usually feel pressured to move ahead. We have to hurry. We seldom ask ourselves where it is that we must hurry to.

When you practice walking meditation, you go for a stroll. You have no purpose or direction in space or time. The purpose of walking meditation is walking meditation itself. Going is important, not arriving. Walking meditation is not a means to an end; it is an end. Each step is life; each step is peace and joy. That is why we don’t have to hurry. That is why we slow down.”

Would be great to see rush hour tube travellers adopt this attitude!