On my Twitter feed I have started a new thing that I have been pondering for a while: Mindfulness Walk Wednesday. Let’s talk about that.
Mindfulness is the energy of being aware and awake to the present moment. It is the continuous practice of touching life deeply in every moment of daily life. To be mindful is to be truly alive, present and at one with those around you and with what you are doing.” – Plum Village website
There are lots of ways to practice mindfulness from lotus position in a quiet place to washing dishes in your kitchen to the cubie at your work place to in the middle of traffic during rush hour. Mindful walking meditation is a great way to practice mindfulness while moving. It’s great for those of us who have a hard time focusing or dozing off while in seated meditation.
Here are some simple steps to get you started on your mindful walking practice.
- Start with an open mind and heart to the experience. This is the time to forget about embarrassment, judgement from self or others, and focusing on whether you are doing it “right.” Embrace the experience and as you practice, let go of stresses and worldly problems, and focus on the simplicity and beauty of the activity in which you’re participating.
- Thich Nhat Hanh speaks of “going without arriving.” Usually when we walk it is to get from point A to point B and we don’t pay attention to anything but the task at hand. While practicing mindful walking meditation, make this your only task. Slow down your pace, put on a half-smile, and soak in the experience instead of rushing through it.
- Choose a place where you can focus on your steps. Perhaps you can go to a park or wooded area, maybe you cannot leave your home so need to practice inside. The location can be anywhere. Though outside in nature is often suggested by practitioners like Hanh, walking meditation can be practiced anywhere, even a small prison cell. Ideally, the path is not too rough, steep, or crowded.
- While you are practicing, it is probably best to leave the dog and children at home. Of course, you can practice mindful walking at any time and place, but if you are needing to focus on the safety of your child on the monkey bars it may be difficult to focus on your meditation. It’s also best if you walk in silence, so walk with others who are also practicing.
- Connect your mind to your breaths. Breathe deeply and slowly, letting your breath become your anchor or homebase for your meditative practice.
- Notice internal stimuli: is your mind rushed, stressed, worried, sad, pent up? Slow your thoughts down with your breath, acknowledge them, and then, putting a half-smile on your face, focus on your breaths and inviting happiness, serenity, and peace to your walk and mind. No need to push away unwanted thoughts or judge yourself for having them. Whenever you find yourself slipping back to thoughts of the past or future, simply return to your homebase of deep breaths and focus on the present.
- Next, slow your walk to a stroll and concentrate on your steps. Notice the quality of your steps: are they heavy or light, even or uneven, burdened or easy? Notice your body movements and what muscles tense and relax as you walk. Become aware of what your body is doing and the miracle of the ability to walk, propelling your body forward almost without effort. For some, walking does require much effort. For those, take it easy and go at your own pace.
- When you are ready, expand your awareness to external stimuli. What is the weather like? Can you feel the sun, wind, rain, or snow on your skin? Use your five senses: What do you hear? What do you see? What do you smell? What do you taste? What do you feel? Become aware of your surroundings and continue to breathe.
Hanh speaks of the miracle of being able to walk on this beautiful earth. Savor the experience of being alive and able to enjoy your surroundings with your incredible senses. You may choose to picture a lotus blooming with each peaceful step you take.
Practice often and increase your ability to calm your worries and sorrow and increase your peace and fulfillment. Happy walking!