Mindfulness is a psychological process of being aware of the present moment without being judgmental regarding your thoughts and feelings. When you become mindful, you are able to de-clutter your mind from unnecessary and negative thoughts and focus on the present.
Jon Kabat-Zin, the creator of Stress Reduction Clinic and the Center for Mindfulness in Medicine, sums up mindfulness beautifully in the following words: “Mindfulness means paying attention, in a particular way; on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally.”
In our daily routine, we are so busy performing several tasks that we fail to acknowledge the present. We move from one chore to another without fully becoming involved in it and this prevents us from enjoying that chore. However, when we become mindful, we slowly start to become aware of who we are, our mindsets and our present. We get awareness into ourselves and our surroundings so we begin focusing on all that’s important and disregard the unnecessary, undesirable and pointless stuff. We keep our thoughts focused on the present and don’t let them control ourselves.
A person can become mindful by practicing mindfulness meditation. There are several types of mindfulness meditation that you can perform. Many of us think that meditation can only be done while sitting on the floor or a chair. On the contrary, meditation can be done at any time and even while walking.
Walking meditation is different than your normal stroll in the park. It is practiced in a way that it makes you aware of your surroundings while also paying attention to the movement of your limbs as well as your breathing. Walking meditation comes in handy when traditional meditation doesn’t calm your racing mind. Here is a step-by-step guide to walking meditation:
First off, choose a location you would like to walk on. As a beginner, it would be best to choose a space that you’re familiar with such as your garden, garage, or backyard. However, make sure the path you choose is at least four meters in length so you can walk back and forth with ease. When picking a location, you also have to ensure that the place isn’t crowded or loud since, a peaceful walk, without distractions, is the main objective.
Even though you can choose to decide your own pace, as a beginner, it is best to keep your pace slow. This will ensure that your focus is steadily maintained upon each and every movement.
To begin, simply stand on the ground while distributing the weight of your body equally on both feet. Remember, during walking meditation, you have to be fully aware of the movement of your limbs in coordination with your breath. As you stand, focus your attention on how the ground feels beneath your feet. Feel the hardness or softness of the surface beneath you depending on whether you are in a garden or a concrete surface.
Once you are mindful of the surface you’re about to walk on, take 10-15 tentative steps and then stop to breathe fully. The purpose of this small practice walk is to get yourself familiar with the path as well as your breathing in coordination with walking.
There are a few key components that you have to focus on while taking each step, such as the lifting of the foot, the moving of your foot forward, and the dropping of your foot on the ground beneath.
Begin your walk by lifting one foot off the ground and as you do so, repeat the word ‘lifting’ three times out loud or in your heart. When you do this, feel the sensation of your knee being bent or the feeling in your foot as it disconnects from the ground. When you move your foot forward, repeat the word ‘moving’ three times while focusing on the motion of your foot and how the muscles in your thigh and calf stretch.
When your foot connects with the ground as you put it down, repeat the word ‘dropping’ three times and notice the sensation in your leg as it straightens out or how the foot feels when it touches the ground. Repeat the same process as you bring forth your back leg and keep your attention focused while repeating the words mentioned earlier.
If at any time during the walking meditation you feel that your attention has shifted elsewhere, do not panic or feel as if your meditation has been disrupted. It is a completely natural thing for your mind to wander. To re-focus, simply bring your attention back to the movement of your limbs and the inhale and exhale of your breath.
As a beginner, you should practice walking meditation for at least, 10-15 minutes.
Once you start practicing walking meditation, try to make it a habit and stick to performing it every day for at least a month. This will help you incorporate the practice in every walk you take. Gradually, you will start to notice that even the smallest of walks, such as going to grab a glass of water, is a mindful one. When I say this, I talk from experience, because I have practiced walking meditation for at least a year now. In all my walks and even my runs, I have begun to incorporate walking meditation. I am aware of every step and due to practice; I am even able to be mindful of my surroundings which allows me to enjoy the scenery and the atmosphere while taking a walk.
Published in MinfulDevMag issue #3 – Download full issue