Does the idea of sitting cross-legged, alone with your thoughts, for long periods of time sound daunting to you? If this visualization already creates anxiety or unease for you, then meditation may have always been intimidating or downright unbearable for you. And that’s okay. Meditation, like yoga, has progressed from the long hours of sitting alone in the Himalayan mountains chanting ancient Mantras, to being woven into daily tasks, such as driving or doing the laundry.
Any action in your life can be performed with a meditative mind, thus cultivating peace in everything you do.
A basic, yet profound method of active meditation is a ‘walking meditation’, which emphasizes focus on the physical experience of walking, paying attention to the meticulous component of each individual step. With constant practice, walking meditation may enhance your ability to remain mindful by increasing your focus and awareness in any given moment. It is recommended to practice a walking meditation for ten minutes a day- which can be walking around the grocery store, taking your dog for a walk or right in the office!
Finding A Location
This practice can be done outside with Mother Nature supporting you, or inside any building- just be aware your slow pacing back and forth may cause some curiosity. Wherever you are practicing, locate a lane clear of debris or obstacles that may be distracting to your walking.
Walk Your Walk
Once you established a safe lane for movement, begin walking 10-15 steps in one direction, then pause and breath consciously for a brief moment. When you’re ready, rotate your body and walk back 10-15 steps in the other direction, again pausing at the end and breathing. Continue these calculated steps back and forth until you feel as though you completed your meditation.
Step By Step
The goal of ‘walking meditation’ is to deliberately think about actions you may subconsciously perform every day. Breaking down the mechanics of each step may feel silly or even awkward, but that heightened internal awareness is building mindfulness with each little step. According to mindfulness expert, Jon Kabat-Zinn, there are four basic components to each step:
- The lifting of the foot;
- The forward movement of the foot;
- The placing of the foot, heel first;
- The subtle shifting of the weight of the body onto the forward leg as the back heel lifts, while the toes remain on the floor, then repeat the cycle.
Integrating Walking Meditation into Your Life
For many people, walking slow with deliberation is an uncomfortable sensation, yet with effort and non-attachment to the results they may find that eventually all of their walking is more conscious and controlled. If your mind begins to wander during your walk, that’s OK- be gentle on yourself and call your attention back to the next step you are taking and repeat the components of each step.
The benefits of walking meditation affect us internally as well as externally, taking us out of auto-pilot and tuning us into the present moment.
By enhancing our mental and physical awareness, we also increase our sense of appreciation and enjoyment in every moment as life unfolds around us.
Sources: Jon Kabat-Zinn, PH D., Center for Mindfulness at the University of Massachusetts Medical School