After a long day sitting in an airconditioned office, seated meditation might seem quite unappealing, especially if you feel that you are tight and constricted because of being sat all day. On days when you feel you want to get out into nature, why not try walking meditation, and try and reconnect to natural world around you.
Walking meditation, also known as mindful walking, is an active and motion-based practice that requires you to be both consciously aware of your surroundings but also moving in the environment around you, rather than sitting down with your eyes closed. The practice brings you closer to nature, your mind, your heart (emotion) and your body. It also helps you to strengthen your concentration as well as making you more aware of what is happening around you. The key to it however is that it enables you to connect to the present moment and gives you yet another space to practice non-judgemental, present moment awareness.
In order, for you to get started with Mindful Walking, you only really need to prepare with a few simple steps (pun definitely intended).
Steps for Mindful Walking Practice
Try to wear comfortable clothing and shoes. If possible, make sure that the things you wear are items that you have worn before and in terms of footwear perhaps try to make sure that the shoes enable you to feel connected to the ground. Begin by standing still and becoming aware of your body and how it feels. Are you stood up straight? Are you stooped? Are your muscles tight? Etc. Notice your posture and feel the weight of your body pressing down toward the ground, experiencing and your heels pushing into your shoes; become aware of all the subtle movements that are keeping you balanced and upright. Are your ankles rotating to keep you uptight?
Now allow your knees to bend very slightly and feel your hips as your centre of gravity. Allow yourself to feel as if you are being drawn into the ground, gravity working to tether you to the earth. Take a few deep belly breaths and bring your awareness into the present moment. Breather in through the nose and out through the mouth. Repeat as many times as necessary. Breath in … Breathe out … Let the breath settle into an unforced, in and out movement, either through the nose OR mouth; use which ever method you feel more comfortable with.
Now begin to walk slightly slower than normal pace, maintaining an almost imperceptible bend in the knees. With each step, be aware of the gentle heel-to-toe rhythm as each foot makes contact with the ground. Walk as if each step counts and move at a pace that makes you feel as if you are connecting with every step to the world beneath your feet.
Breathe naturally and fully, deeply filling your lungs with each inhalation, but being careful not to strain or struggle in any way. Allow your eyes to focus softly ahead of you, taking in as much of the periphery as comfortable. Try to maintain a soft body and breathing awareness as you walk naturally and easily. As you walk you will notice that, in time, the attention will wander. Bring it back to the breath and/or the feeling of your feet walking across the earth.
When your attention drifts away from the sensations of walking and breathing, take notice of those thoughts, moods, or emotions without judgment and gently guide your awareness back to the present moment, back to the walking. Emotions and thoughts will come and they will go, they will appear with little or no announcement. The skill, and why we use the breath and walking as an anchor, is to allow them to arise and the for you to allow them to fall away. The emotions are the swell of the sea, the breath is the anchor that has tethered you to the harbour. Bring your attention back to the breath and footfall, that’s all you need to do.
Mindful walking can take place almost anywhere and for any period of time, however we have found that for anywhere from 5 to 20 minutes is perhaps optimal as the attention and focus is best for that period of time, especially in beginners.
When it’s time to end the meditation, allow yourself to come to a gentle halt. Pause and once again experience yourself standing still, stable and calm. Feel the earth beneath your feet, take a few deep breaths as this session comes to close; slowly return to your attention to the wider world around you, but carrying a solid and stable sense of calm into the rest of your day’s activities.