This activity is for couples or friends who would like to spend time together in a natural setting to release stress, experience beauty, and improve their mood. The reason this hike is “silent” is because it increases awareness of your surroundings and puts less pressure on each individual to maintain a conversation while trying to enjoy the setting.
The diad conversation after the hike builds intimacy in a safe way.
Arrive together at a trail or park where you can wander for at least an hour or two at a slow to moderate pace. This activity is best done in a place where there isn’t a lot of foot traffic, dogs, frequent passers-by, or vehicle noise. An ideal location would be a forest trail, a mountain trail, a beach early in the morning, or a large park on a weekday morning when it’s not very crowded.
Once you arrive, set a simple intention on what you will do on the hike. An example of this may be:
“My intention is to avoid thinking about that fight we had and just enjoy being close to you in a beautiful setting.”
“My intention is to try notice what it’s like to feel close to you without needing to tell you what I’m thinking, or to just communicate non-verbally.”
Speak your intention out loud to each other, then agree that once you pass a certain “threshhold” — the trailhead, a tree, a rock — you will begin in silence. You will not break the silence during the entire walk, communicating only through non-verbal means, such as gentle touches, pointing, or facial expressions. Agree on how long you will walk and at what time you will turn back (wear a watch).
Once you step over the threshhold, walk close together. If you pass another person, you may greet them by nodding or smiling, but try to maintain silence.
Notice how it feels to spend this much time together without speaking. Look around and give your attention to the trees, the birds, the sky, the ground. Notice your thoughts as they come and go, approach, and pass.
What thoughts keep coming up? How does being silent around your partner feel? Like a relief or like torture? What do you wish you could say?
After you cross back over the threshhold, find a comfortable place to sit and sit opposite each other. This is the second part of the activity.
There are only two rules to this part of the activity:
1) No matter what the other person says, you can only respond, “thank you for sharing.”
2) You don’t discuss or talk about this part of the activity later. This creates a sense of safety about sharing and promotes honesty.
One person begins by asking, “What part of the hike was most difficult for you?”
The other person responds, but the person asking the question can only say, “Thank you for sharing.”
Here are some suggested questions to ask:
1) What kept coming up for you as you walked?
2) What do you wish you could say to me while we were walking?
3) What did you enjoy most about taking a silent walk with me?
4) What did you enjoy the least about walking in silene with me?
5) What thing did you notice in nature that you most wanted to talk about with me?
When you’re finished, agree not to talk about the questions or get defensive about the answers later. Agree not to talk about the details of the hike itself too much. Return home.
What This Activity Evokes
This activity is a way for couples or friends to spend time in nature in a way that builds awareness of both their internal and external state. Not only are the individuals asked to enjoy their surroundings, they’re also asked to contemplate how they feel about being silent around their partner. The silence can feel good, or it could be discomforting, depending on the relationship. This comfort or discomfort is a point to be examined.
The diad exercise after the hike is a way to discuss what happened in an honest way, without analyzing too much or over-discussing it.