I’m sure you have a busy life and if you’re anything like me, you often tell yourself that there are more important things to do than to sit down with your eyes closed for a couple of minutes.
Well, it turns out that we DO have time for this (you just have to prioritize it) and that you don’t even have to sit down in order to meditate or being mindful.
We experience the world and ourselves through our senses, so by paying attention to all the information we’re receiving through them, the happier and more connected to our surroundings we become.
What Are Walking Meditations?
Walking is a fantastic way to integrate mindfulness into your everyday life. In fact, people have been practising walking meditations for thousands of years. Yet somehow, going somewhere has turned for most of us into a habituated and mindless action that we don’t even have to concentrate on that much.
Think about that last time you went somewhere on foot. Do you remember exactly where you walked, who you passed or what you heard or smelled? Probably not. That’s because we tend to walk in a semi-conscious state; our legs move, but our minds are somewhere completely different.
In some zen-schools, walking meditations are used to switch from sitting to physical activity and to get in touch with your surroundings. The blood starts flowing again and stiff muscles and joints are loosened up.
There are many different meditation techniques that you can do while walking, varying from walking at a slow pace and aimless walking while repeat certain mantras, to more concentrative practices, pilgrimages and even ‘spiritual running’.
If you’d like to know more, do some research on ‘Kinhin’, ‘Theravada’ or ‘Thich Nhat Hank’, to name a few meditation techniques.
Simple Walking Mediation
To start of simple, here is a fairly easy exercise that you can do while walking pretty much anywhere. It will help you become more present and connect to the moment, without hardly any extra effort!
- Start by noticing how your body feels. Does it feel light or heavy? Are you stiff or relaxed? Do you have pain or do you feel comfortable? Take a few moments to become aware of the answers. Don’t try to change anything in the way you walk, but simply observe your posture and the way you carry yourself
- Slowly move your attention away from your own body and start becoming more aware of what’s going on around you. Notice cars, other people, signs on the road or on buildings, shop windows and anything else
- Go deeper into what you see and notice colours, shapes, movements… Don’t think anything about it, simply acknowledge it. Take about half a minute to do this
- From looking, move to sounds. This is my personal favourite! What do you hear? Again, don’t label anything, but listen to the sound of transport, people, music, announcements, nature, animals and anything else! Again, take about half a minute to do this
- Take half a minute to turn your attention to smells around you. Not everything might be pleasant, but try and notice how your mind keeps on trying to come up with a story around these smells..
- Finally, we move to any physical sensations or feelings you might notice for the next half a minute. Anything from the weather to your clothing, things you have to touch with your hands, terrain you’re walking on. Again, don’t feel the need to think anything about it, just feel the different sensations
- Keep on walking as usual and just experience things as they come and go. Notice how one thing is constantly being replaced by the next. After about two minutes, gently shift your attention to the sensation of movement in your body. Notice how your weight shifts from one side to another and back again, in a steady rhythm. Don’t change your pace, but focus on the rhythm of your steps and use them as a place you can mentally come back to when you realise your mind has wandered off. Just like you would focus on your breath when you meditate sitting.
A mindful walk can be a great way to focus or to relax. And at the same time it’s a great way to boost your daily step count! Don’t be afraid to experiment. Try to walk down just one street free from distraction, or do the meditation on a treadmill, or while walking in a different environment, such as the park or close to a river, where there are less distractions. Use your next step as an opportunity to start over -and let us know how you did!