In essence, meditation and mindfulness can take any form you can imagine. It’s not just sitting with your eyes closed and repeating your favourite mantra.
Therefore it gets easier to integrate mindfulness practices into most of our everyday activities- which is how it should be anyway.
But we can bring awareness to our walks and begin a walking meditation practice that welcomes both physical and psychological wellness into our lives.
With walking, we tend to focus on the destination. Normally operating all caught up in thoughts, wondering about tonight’s dinner, tomorrow’s doctor’s appointment or that one argument we had five years ago.
We might not even walk unless there are no other options to get where we need to. And with lockdown and more and more people working from home, going outside for a walk is the last thing we probably think of.
What is walking meditation?
We are so accustomed to being able to walk that we just take it for granted. The same as breathing, it becomes something redundant within our lives. We fail to bring awareness to it unless there’s an issue stopping us from being on autopilot.
Walking meditation is simply bringing awareness to your walks. It’s being present with every step you take by placing your attention in your body and senses and avoiding getting caught up in negative or repetitive thinking.
The first time I took a mindful walk it happened to be in a forest, I later became aware of an old Japanese practice called forest bathing which uses the same principles of a walking meditation but is performed in a forest. You bring your awareness and focus to all your senses while you experience and connect to nature deeply.
This type of meditation has been proven o reduce stress and “technostress” caused by the use of technology- it makes sense as you disconnect from sources of stress and focus on nature.
Ultimately, There’s no real difference between forest bathing and walking meditation, you could even consider forest bathing as a type of walking meditation.
Practising Walking Meditation
Walking meditation can be done anywhere, anyplace indoors or outdoors works. You can take as much time as you like and start with a 5-10 minutes walk and build up from there.
Pointers to practice walking meditation:
Picking a place
Anyplace works, pick a good place that works best for you. Personally, nature is the way to go for me.
Take a few deep breaths
Before you start to walk, take a moment to bring your attention to your breathing and practice some deep breaths to get yourself ready for your walk.
As you begin your walk, pay attention to your body and legs, feel how your legs raise with each step and the way your feet feel when you hit the ground. Be aware of your movements with each step, the swing of your hands, the inclination of your hips, pay attention to your whole body.
Be aware of your senses
Pay attention to your senses without labelling what you see, hear, feel, taste or touch. Take a moment to observe what’s around you in detail like you’ve never seen it before. Listen to the sounds of the city or nature, be attentive and listen with your whole body without the need to label what you hear or react to it. Maybe you can taste something in the air, be aware of that. Take a moment to place your attention in all of your senses fully.
Our goal here is not about where we get to but what we experience with each step of our practice.
Observe your thoughts
Throughout your walk, try to be aware of your thinking. Sometimes you might get lost in thought (and this is totally fine) when this happens try to bring your attention to the present moment and your sensations. Whatever place your thoughts came from, they’ll go to if you don’t let yourself be caught up in thinking. Be aware of your thoughts, be kind to yourself and let them go as you move forward.
Walking meditation is an easy way to implement mindfulness into an everyday activity. No need to turn it into a process, you can just walk mindfully whenever you’re going from point A to point B. You can find stillness while moving, and this is the purpose of this practice.