Mindful walking is a fantastic way to incorporate mindfulness into your everyday life. If you are sitting down most of your day then a walking meditation might sound a bit more appealing than a 20 – 30 minute sit down meditation.
I work in front of my computer for hours on end so I like to get up and walk a little from time to time. You know, stretch the old legs. I take these little walking breaks in between work for a quick refresher.
It’s a mindfulness tool I like to use when I’m feeling stuck on something or facing a bit of writers block. It helps to clear my mind and gives me an energy boost so that I can carry on doing what I need to do.
This practice is a way to move without any specific goal or intention. It simply means being aware while walking. Noticing each footstep as it hits the ground and feeling your breath as you breathe while you walk.
You allow yourself to notice and become aware of the sounds, smells and sensations as you walk. Let these sensations pass through your mind without any judgement. Just let everything be as it is while you walk mindfully.
When you find your mind wandering bring your attention back to each footstep as it makes contact with the ground. Bring your attention to your breath and carry on walking.
Walking meditationscan be done anywhere. Whether you are in the city on your way to your next meeting or out on a nature walk with friends. The versatility of this tool makes it easy to practice anywhere and at any time.
Before you start your walk take a moment to calm your mind. Set your intention so that you know you are about to perform a walking meditation.
Cycle through the next couple of points as you continue to walk. Spend 20 to 30 seconds on each point and allow yourself to experience them fully. I like to treat this exercise like a body scan, but instead of scanning just the body I scan the environment as well as my body.
When you start walking notice your body and how it feels. Are you heavy in your body or are you light and relaxed? What is your posture doing? Are you slouched or upright?
Don’t try and change how you are walking in this moment. Observe it and let it be as it is. You want to be as natural as you possibly can be.
While walking bring your attention to your feet. Start focusing on the way your feet feel when touching the ground. Heel to tip, experience the sensations of your stride.
As you notice your feet and the rhythm of your walk bring your focus to your breath too. Being aware of both the breath and your strides at the same time is what this exercise is all about.
I like to think of this step as your walking meditation baseline. This is where we want to be, no distractions, only you, your feet on the ground and your breath.
Allow yourself to become aware of any sounds you might hear. Let the sounds be there without any judgement. Don’t focus on whether or not the sounds are pleasant or unpleasant. Just become aware of the sounds and let them pass as you continue to walk.
Just like with the sounds allow yourself to experience any smell in the air. Do this without judgement, be aware of the smells you experience and let them pass.
Notice how the smells might trigger your mind to attach a memory or story to them. When this happens simply bring yourself back to baseline. The rhythm, breath and sensation of your strides.
Take a bit of time to notice your environment. Perhaps its a nature walk so you will notice the trees, birds or other people around you. If you are in the city it might be the cars, shops and signs that you see.
Don’t think about what you are seeing, don’t judge what you are seeing just see it, let it be and let it pass. Keep walking as the images and colors move through your mind. Remember to come back to baseline if your mind wanders.
Most importantly you need to have fun with your walking practice. Don’t fight the sounds, smells and sights that are happening around you. Allow all these external things to be noticed by you, become aware of them and then let them pass through. Let them come, be aware and then let them pass without any judgment.
When your mind wanders off be sure to come back to your baseline. Get back in touch with each stride. Focus on your feet hitting the ground, heel to tip. Be aware of your breath as you breathe. Let all of these sensations form a rhythm.
As you practice meditative walking more and more this rhythm will become easier to achieve. You will be able to hold it and keep your attention there for longer periods of time.
Focus on the sensations of the feet hitting the ground.
Focus on the breath as you breathe.
“You have feet, and if you don’t make use of them it’s a loss and a waste. Someone is telling you now so that in the future you cannot say: “no one told me that it was important to enjoy using my feet.” “
– Tich Nhat Hanh
Below are 5 of the benefits you may experience by practicing a walking meditation. We already know that mindfulness reduces stress and anxiety, relives depressive symptoms and enhances your overall well-being.
Deliberately being mindful while we walk allows us to be more aware of the earth. We feel ourselves walking over it as we focus on our feet hitting the ground. All our senses are activated in the process of walking mindfully, we are fully engaged in this activity.
We are all part of the environment and this practice helps us to feel more connected to it. We no longer mindlessly walk from one point to the other, we experience the whole process and in doing so become more connected with our surroundings.
We all need a break from our minds from time to time. The practice of walking meditation gives that to you. Sometimes a walk in nature is what we need to break us out of a bad mood or a depressive state. When you add mindfulness to your walking it enhances the experience and gets you out of your head for a short time.
When we practice mindfulness in any form whether it’s walking or sit down meditations, we connect the mind and the body on a deeper level. When we are walking mindfully we become aware of our body in the way it moves through our environment.
This practice brings to our attention the way we carry ourselves as we walk. Your every move will be picked up. Your posture, stride or any aches and pains you might experience. With this information you gain insight into how your body moves and what it might need to foster more mobility.
It’s not like a seated meditation. You aren’t in a quiet room with a pillow under your bum. The environment is filled with distractions such as cars, planes, animals and people. All these distractions are constantly fighting for your attention.
These distractions will pull your attention away from what you are doing, but as a mindful walker you will come back to baseline time and time again. The continuous repetition of bringing yourself back to baseline will improve your concentration and your mindfulness practice.
By practicing walking meditations you will soon be doing it all the time. Need to go to the bathroom? Why not mindfully walk there?. Need something out the fridge? Why not mindfully walk there?
The more you practice it the more you will do it. Whether its a 60 minute walk or a 30 second walk, it will become second nature. Before you know it mindfulness will spill over into all areas of your life.
BELOW IS AN ALTERNATIVE METHOD OF A WALKING MEDITATION
This fun mindfulness exercise is something I do regularly. It’s changed the way I interact and look at my environment, it’s changed the way I live my life. When you get up now try and be more aware of your walking. Give this exercise a try, i’m sure you will enjoy it. Remember that there’s no perfection in mindfulness, just repetition of being aware.