Usually we walk with intent to go from destination A to destination B. How often do you find yourself doing the following when you walk?
- Texting or looking at your smart phone
- Walking fast because you are running late
- Creating your “to do” list
With many of our lives being so busy and full of “doing”, we are often multitasking while we are walking. What if we took the time to notice each step when walking from destination A to destination B?
Mindful walking is a mindfulness practice (meditation) that is done by walking. When I first was reading about this practice, it was something that was taught to me by my physical therapist. A few years ago, I was involved in a car accident that injured my feet and left me unable to walk for about four months. During my rehabilitation of re-learning to walk, my therapist had me put my attention, awareness, and focus on the sensations and breathing I experienced with each step. I needed to be extremely aware of my body, balance, and surroundings.To start this exercise, you can set aside any amount of time or simply try this when you are walking from car to your office.
- Stand with good posture
- Notice your breath (in and out)
- Gaze just in front of you
- Walk at a steady pace (slightly slower than normal)
As you walk, feel the sensations in your feet and through your body as you lift, step, and shift your balance from foot to foot. If your mind starts to wander, simply bring yourself back to the movement and the breath. As you walk, make sure that you have no specific goal or expectation from this walk. Notice the environment around you without any judgments.
I use the following five tips that I found from Headspace when I take my mindful walks:
- OBSERVE – Without trying to change the way you’re walking, simply observe how it feels. Just take a moment to observe it, notice it.
- NOTICE – Notice what you see going on around you. It might be people walking past, shop window displays, cars, or advertisements. Notice the colors, shapes, the movement, and perhaps the stillness too.
- LISTEN – Turn your attention to sounds – what can you hear? Without getting caught up in thinking about the objects of sound, just take a moment to be aware of them, as though they are just coming and going in your field of awareness.
- FEEL – Notice any physical sensations or feelings. Perhaps it’s the feeling of warm sunshine, cool rain, or a breeze. Perhaps it’s the sensation of the soles of your feet touching the ground with each step.
- COME BACK – Use the rhythm of the walking as your base of awareness, a place you can mentally come back to once you realize the mind has wandered.
This action meditation can be done almost anywhere. I recently practiced a mindful walk at the airport as I walked from security to my gate. I enjoy doing this mindfulness practice a few times a week whether it is a twenty-minute walk around my neighborhood or simply a walk from the parking lot to my class.
Set some time aside to try a mindful walking meditation. Remember to walk a little less hectic, experience sensations, acknowledge thoughts or feelings, and step with gratitude.