This afternoon I was working on my computer when I came across an article on walking meditation. As I sat reading this article, it came to my attention that I had not moved from my office chair all day, so the idea of taking a walk instantly became intriguing. Reading on, I found out that walking meditation is a practice that supposedly allows you to achieve a total body experience, connecting your mind and body through the action of walking - sold! Within 5 minutes of completing the article, my shoes were tied and I was out the door.
Now I was not too sure how the whole meditation part of this walk would work out, having tried the more traditional, stationary meditation in the past and every time finding myself only to be asleep moments later. However, I figured the chances of me not falling asleep while walking were in my favor. So with an open mind, and no cell phone or computer screen in front of me, I decided to head out and give it a shot.
I started before I even left the front steps of my house. Stopping myself to make sure I had decent walking shoes and the right clothes on for the breezy weather, while also having some thoughts about how to approach the meditation part of this walk: (1) don’t overthink, (2) try to be present and let whatever happens happen, (3) don’t judge, (4) leave my work aside and when I lose focus go back to paying attention to what I am doing...walking.
My experience went something like this: I took my first step off the front porch and headed left up the hill in front of my house. Solely focused on myself, for the first time all day, I began to notice how I felt and what I saw…my legs felt heavy and tight…the poison ivy that currently occupies my right leg was on fire and in fact, it had begun spreading to my stomach and my arm…I saw my reflection in the windows of parked cars as I passed by and thought that I needed a haircut…calamine lotion stuck to the skin on my leg…the sound of my feet echoed as they scrapped the sidewalk with each step (I’m heavy on my feet)…warm on top with my coat, cool on bottom with my shorts...a stream of thoughts flowed through me as the walk progressed - up and then down the hill. Then when my mind drifted (which it did a lot) I tried to focus on what it feels like to touch the earth, to always return to what I was doing, walking and just being. Sounded pretty easy when I read it on the computer, but actually doing it proved to be a little tricky.
Overall, it was a positive experience. I’m still a little unsure how I feel about the meditation aspect of it all, but at least I got to stretch my legs and I didn’t fall asleep. Meditation, when using a mantra, has never seemed to click with me. I tend to find that my mind wanders easily and I believe the moving body aspect of this approach helped keep me more present and awake. Even so, I did find it difficult to stay focused and not think about work. We have busy minds, but given our lifestyles, whether you have time for a short walk or a long walk, walking meditation seems like a really good and easy way to move your mind and body if you can manage to be mindful. So, next time you find yourself looking for an escape from work or technology, turn your phone off, lace up your shoes and give walking meditation a shot -- one step at a time.
*For those of you interested in other meditation practices I suggest you take a look at this video of Dr. Brian Alman - In this video he uses the sounds of the ocean and your own breath to help you achieve a deep feeling of relaxation.*