Chances are you spend a lot of the day sitting, and frankly, the prospect of doing more sitting is not so appealing, even if it is for mindfulness meditation. Luckily, there is a long tradition of walking meditation and developing a mindfulness walking practice can be a great way to take a break and boost your mood.
You might think that walking meditation sounds a bit contradictory, but it is a great way to bring awareness to everyday activity and to detach from the busyness of modern life and be fully present. Ideally, you’d be walking somewhere beautiful, somewhere in nature. But mindfulness can be practiced anytime, anywhere! Walking between floors in your office building (or home) or a lunchtime walk through the park are fine. And you can do it right now.
It is easy to start a mindful walking practice – here’s how.
1. If possible, try to wear comfortable shoes and clothes.
2. Make the conscious decision to walk mindfully.
3. Take every opportunity to walk mindfully.
4. Turn off your phone.
Before you start walking, take a moment to check in with your body and see how you are feeling. Notice your posture, feel the weight of your body and how your spine, legs, and feet are working to keep you balanced and upright. Breathe a few times deeply and bring your awareness to the present moment.
Focus your eyes softly ahead of you and begin to walk naturally and easily. Pay attention to the mechanics of walking, the sound of your breath, the freedom of just being. You may find it helpful to coordinate your step with your breathing—breathe in, step. Breathe out, step.
You may find your attention wandering. Observe this and gently keep bringing it back to the breath or to the physical sensation of walking (your feet touching the earth, your knees bending, your arms gently swinging.)
Move your attention to your senses.
• Notice the sounds you can hear without stopping to name them or determine if you find them pleasant or unpleasant. Notice them and let them go.
• Shift your awareness to what you can smell. Keep your awareness moving, not labeling or judging.
• Now focus on what you can see. Colors, objects, textures, shapes.
• Return your attention to the feeling of walking through the environment. The physical sensations of walking, the air cool or warm on your skin, ruffling your hair, how your feet are touching the ground and how this activity moves through your body.
Do not worry if you get distracted, just keep returning to the rhythm of breathing in and out, the rhythm of walking. Mindful walking is something that is easy to integrate into your life and will pay off in reduced stress, greater resilience, and greater inner peace.
Liz Hammack is the President of Hammack Manufacturing solutions Group, LLC., a consulting group focused on improving manufacturing performance through front-line employee development.