Walking meditation is a great way to return to the present moment, to ground and to unwind – perfect to do after a long day, this practise helps to bring attention back to body and mind, which in turn helps to lower stress and boost our mood.
Walking Meditation can be done in different ways. The simplest way could be to observe your breath as you walk slowly, and going slow is key.
Here I’ll share one way where we bring more presence to the process of walking. If you can, try this practise the next time you’re outside in a natural landscape.
Mindful walking allows us to ground ourselves, to de-stress, and gather our awareness which can sometimes become scattered in such a way that thoughts and external forces take over. During mindful walking we are more present with ourselves. And when we are outside in nature, naturally our cortisol levels are lowered and we’re able to take a deeper breath, figuratively and literally.
- Beginning. As you begin, walk at a natural pace but try to slow it down a touch eventually. Count your steps for a couple of minutes to ‘arrive’ in the practise, to immerse yourself in the process. Count from 1 to 10, with one step-1, the next step-2, and so on, just for a couple of minutes. As you reach 10, pause and take in the sights around you… Then start again from 1. With each step, pay attention to the lifting and falling of your feet. Notice the movement in your legs and the rest of your body. Notice any shifting of your body from side to side. Your mind will wander, so gently, be kind to yourself and guide it back again as many times as you need. Allow the natural environment to open up your senses but return to awareness on the process of walking.
- Sounds. Now for a few minutes, expand your attention to sounds instead. Pay attention to sounds without labeling or naming them, or getting caught up in what kind of sound it is, sounds coming, sounds going as our point of focus. Naturally we will enjoy bird song and the breeze softly blowing, our senses are opening but sounds are the anchor here in the present moment.
- Smells. Begin to take some deeper breaths alongside your footsteps now. If it feels good in the moment take some bigger strides with your feet. Bigger strides but still going slowly, keep the pace and maintain full awareness on your grounding practise. Gradually shift your awareness to your sense of smell for a couple of minutes, and the feel of your deeper breaths at the nostrils, simply noticing as above.
- Visions. Now moving your awareness to observe colors and objects and whatever else you see, again for a couple of minutes. Just as if you are in meditation – without labeling here or judging, simply witnessing as if for the first time! Taking in all the beauty the day has to offer. Being with any sensation, thought, feeling that arises and simply witnessing those too without running away with them. Returning to the process of walking and here with a sustained effort on the sense of sight… Without overly drifting off into a dream, but full waking awareness and sustained effort on the walking meditation. Walking with a calm curiosity to what you see.
- Keep this open awareness of everything around you, wherever you are. Nothing to do, nothing to fix, nothing to change. Fully aware, and walking. Now opening up to the senses of sight, smell and sounds all together for a couple of minutes.
- Then back to physical sensations of walking. In the last moments, come back to awareness of the physical sensations of walking. Notice your feet again touching the ground. Notice again the movements in your body with each step.
- Intention setting. When you’re ready to end your walking meditation, stand still for a moment if possible. Pausing, choose a moment to end the practice. As you finish, consider how you might bring this kind of awareness into the rest of your day. Internally repeat your favourite mantra or say an intention or affirmation to yourself with your full attention. You might like to notice here just how your sustained attention on your practise has made you feel and how that’s helped to ground you and possibly calm an overactive mind… Take this time to acknowledge yourself for taking this time out in nature to positively affect your physical, mental, emotional and spiritual well-being.