With stress, fear, and anxiety reaching an all-time high because of the ongoing pandemic situation, various mental health professionals have suggested practicing mediation as one of the ways to cope with your emotions. However, seated meditation isn’t convenient for everyone; especially those who are constantly on the move. For such people, the process of mindful walking would be more useful.
Mindful walking, also known as walking meditation, provides you with the physical benefits of walking (such as a healthier heart and calorie burning), along with active meditation, and mindfulness.
Walking meditation originates from Buddhist teachings and it has been used as a technique for mindful meditation for years. (To learn more about mindfulness and its various benefits, click here.)
Mindful walking is a simple and comfortable form of meditation that can be particularly useful for those who struggle to perform general meditation and for those who don’t like sitting in one place quietly. Walking meditation basically means walking while being mindful of each of your steps and breath. For many people, this works better rather than practicing meditation while sitting with their eyes closed.
The best thing about walking meditation is that it can be done indoors or outside in nature – in your garden, hallway, terrace, your balcony, a large room, the nearby park, or even the beach. The lane you choose to walk on doesn’t need to be too long as you are not focused on reaching a specific destination through this approach.
To practice mindful walking, first, take slow 10-15 steps along the lane you’ve chosen. Then, pause and breathe for as long as you feel comfortable. Once you feel ready, you have to turn and walk back in the opposite direction – the other end of the lane. When you reach the other end, pause and breathe again. Keep repeating this method for at least 15 minutes. Remember, when you are walking you must focus your attention on one or more sensations that you would generally ignore, like the movement of your hands and legs and the breath coming in and out of your body. Then, you can divert your attention away from your body to what is around you. It may be the simplest thing like the temperature of the wind, the smell of the air, or the feeling of the ground under your feet. Acknowledge each experience and savor it without engaging with it too much. Take in everything in front of you with your eyes and your mind until you start feeling relaxed.
Walking meditation is a slow process and involves taking small steps. Thus, you shouldn’t walk too briskly. The most essential part here is to feel natural with your walking and not to make it exaggerated or stylized.
By integrating walking meditation into your daily life, you can turn an everyday action into a tool for mindfulness and stress reduction. It is an acquired taste that requires plenty of patience and won’t come easily. But if you keep practicing it, even for short intervals in a day, you will slowly get used to it. Furthermore, mindful breathing or walking meditation can lead to various benefits. Here is a look at a few of them.
Mindful walking meditation allows you to be completely involved in the experience of walking. Through this approach, you will be able to connect with the earth beneath your feet, the air you are breathing in and out and the myriad sights and sounds around you at a deeper level. You will also feel more connected with the environment and sense you are an integral part of it. As you continue making walking meditation a part of your daily life, you will gradually realize that you are nurturing situational awareness from within. Rather than simply walking aimlessly, you will be able to develop your focus to be on your surroundings and on the experience of walking.
While walking is obviously helpful some can get bored with it after a while. Mindful walking, however, allows you to enjoy the pleasure of walking. If done properly, you can increase your oxygen intake by walking meditation while also reinvigorating yourself when you are down.
While walking, you can chant “OM” or use some other positive phrases like "I am happy" or "I'm healthy" in short intervals. This may feel awkward initially for those who are doing it for the first time. But once you begin walking meditation every day, and follow the above-mentioned steps, you feel a sense of relaxation and calm from within. Once you are done with the exercise, you will realize you are fresh and more upbeat.
A lot of us today are so involved with our day-to-day affairs that we have become alienated from our own bodies. Walking mindfully helps us stay connected with our physical selves and allows us to nurture a deeper connection between our mind and body. You will have a greater awareness and understanding of how you carry yourself as you walk. Furthermore, you will realize that your balance, stride, and posture express their own unique stories in the manner you walk. With this information, you will understand your body better and appreciate it more.
One of the toughest things to achieve through meditation is to get rid of all distractions. With seated meditation, distractions are lesser as it is generally practiced in a quiet surrounding. However, mindful walking doesn’t have that luxury as you are likely to be in an environment filled with constant distractions. The sounds of traffic, people walking close by, the weather, birds, insects, and animals will all be posing a challenge to your mindful walking. Focusing on your regular thoughts and avoiding all the external distractions won’t be easy. However, once you get the hang of it, you will have greater control over your concentration.
As you are hit with each distraction, you will force them away, bring yourself to the present moment, and shift your focus to your walking. Once this process is repeated several times, over and over, your mind’s ability to stay focused will be bolstered. The more you incorporate this approach into your regular routine, the more you will end up building your mental muscles. Gradually, over time, you will realize that your attention is better and you can be in the present moment much quicker despite the distractions.
While walking meditation may sound easy on paper, it is a tough skill to acquire. With continual practice, it will soon become a part of your being. Once that happens, you will find that mindfulness becomes integrated into other areas of your life as well and will permeate them with greater awareness. Remember that meditation walk can be performed anywhere and at any time of the day. Practicing it routinely will make it easier for mindfulness to become a part of everything you do.
One of the biggest benefits of mindful walking is that it enables you to pause and slow down. With this technique, you will be moving mindfully and with purpose. To achieve meditation walking, you will have to focus on your movements and each step must be taken with great awareness. In time, your movements will become more measured and graceful. You will soon realize that not everything is a race and you shouldn’t be in this constant hurry to reach your destination. Mindful walking is about being in the present moment; your breath, the environment, and each step you take are what require the most attention. Take your time and relish the prospect of not having the goal to reach any destination. You don’t need to move fast. All you need is to feel deeply about your present.
As mentioned earlier, mindful walking works perfectly for those who aren’t comfortable with seated meditation. This technique helps you to achieve the purpose of meditation while walking in a park, a beach, or even on the street. When you start this process, your goal must be walking for the sole purpose of meditation. Initially, your mind will inevitably wander. And that is perfectly okay. You cannot be frustrated as mindful walking requires dedication. Be aware of all the physical sensations or feelings and focus on them. Your understanding of your intentions will increase eventually as each walk will begin with a focused intention. Also, your ability to stay connected with the present moment will become better when you practice walking with clarity. Through conscious movement, one step at a time, you can slowly achieve the true benefits of meditation and make it a conscious part of your life.