ARTICLE

How a mindful walk can help you step into meditation

2021-01-01 2 mins read

Do you find traditional meditation challenging? A mindful walk might be just what the doctor ordered. Here's what it's all about.

When was the last time you went for a walk, just to walk? No music, podcasts, phone calls or distractions and, perhaps most importantly, nowhere to be. Just you, slowly moving through the world.

This is the premise behind mindful wlaking, or a walking meditation. It's about syncing your mind and body, focusing on your steps rather than your breath. mindful walking teaches you to focus on something other than your thoughts. Many people find traditional meditation challenging, so a mindful walk, where you concentrate on steps instead of your breath, can be a great alternative.

An important part of Buddist meditations, walking meditations were traditionally done in a circle. Participants would follow the same, slow steps, concentrating on the feeling of their foot hitting the ground - heel to toe - as they move. Many incorporate a mantra as they go.

Really though, you can do your mindful walk anywhere - you don't need to drive to a forest or to a remote beach to reap the benefits (although waling in nature has its benefits). You can do a walking meditation - at any pace that feels confortable - around your neighbourhood, on your way to the office, or even around the house.

Some people like to take a mindful walk immediately after their morning meditation, so they can take that feeling of calm out into the world. Mindful walks can be done solo, with a partner or friend - even with the dog.

Ready to give it a go? here's how to do it.

Notice your body

As soon as you leave the house (minus the distracting headphones!), think about how you feel. Are you hot or cold, calm or flustered, heavy or stiff? Andy Puddicombe, meditation and mindfulness expert (and co-founder of the Headspace app), suggests not focussing on any particular feelings - just notice them, and then let them pass.

After a few moments, consider your posture. Are you walking tall, with shoulders back, or are you curled over, as if walking against the wind? Finally, watch your walk. Are you taking long strides, or short steps/ Moving fast or slow? Don't try to chang eanyghing - simply observe how your body moves as you go.

As soon as you leave the house (minus the distracting headphones!), think about how you feel. Are you hot or cold, calm or flustered, heavy or stiff? Andy Puddicombe, meditation and mindfulness expert (and co-founder of the Headspace app), suggests not focussing on any particular feelings - just notice them, and then let them pass.

After a few moments, consider your posture. Are you walking tall, with shoulders back, or are you curled over, as if walking against the wind? Finally, watch your walk. Are you taking long strides, or short steps/ Moving fast or slow? Don't try to chang eanyghing - simply observe how your body moves as you go.

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Caption: Now start to pay a little more attention to your surroundings. What can you see, hear, smell? Look up at the trees and note what colour the leaves are. Are there cars driving past, dogs barking, birds, twittering?

Steady your breathing

In through the nose, out through the mouth. Feel your lungs fill up with fresh air. Simple breathing exercies alone can make a huge difference in your state of mind.

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Find your rhythm

Finally, shift your attention your steps, and how your feet physically feel as they touch the ground. Vietnamese Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh told Tricycle magazine: "Physically our feet are doing the walking, but because out minds are elsewhere, we're not walking with our full body and our full consciousness". Keep this in mind as you walk. Can you make a concerted effort to walk in a heel-toe rhythm? Focus on the sensation of your feet touching the ground, your weight shifting from side to side and, as Thich Nhat Hanh says, "walk as if you are kissing the Earth with your feet."

There's no right or wrong

The aim of mindful walking is to free your mind of distractions, and to avoid becoming overwhelmed or bothered with unhelpful thoughts. If you notice that you're suddenly thinking about a difficult conversation you need tohave your boss, or an altercation you had over aparking spot, it's totally fine (and expected!). When you have these thoughts, draw your focus back to your surroundings, the feeling of your feet on the ground, and how you're moving through the space around you.