The vast majority of the day you are probably so absorbed in what you still have to do, where you have to go and how that all fits into your schedule, that you almost forget what you are doing in the moment itself. It is therefore quite understandable that you do not want to be consciously present in the here and now. If sitting cross-legged on a cushion to meditate is not quite your thing, then there is a great alternative for you! Because let's face it, we are not all programmed to sit still, silence our inner voice and focus on nothing but silence. So for even the most restless individuals, there is an option to meditate: by moving!
The purpose of this blog is to give you a glimpse into the workings of walking meditation or, as the English term goes, Walking Meditation. The idea is to succeed in getting into a bubble that insulates us from the noise and influences of the outside world and, not unimportantly, from our thoughts. And who better to learn this from than those who invented these meditative walks: the Buddhist monks. Let's follow in their footsteps!
Assume that as a beginner, you're only walking 10-15 steps back and forth: kind of like ice-balling for advanced practitioners, ha! The reason to start that way is to really master the technique before choosing long distances and other surfaces. If you want to kick off outside in nature, find a quiet place. The slow, rather formal looking walking meditation can look rather strange to people who are not used to it. Of course, you can also choose to do this indoors.
The point is not to reach a specific destination, but to practice the form of walking. Start with 10-15 steps backwards,pause and then breathe. Turn around and walk back to your starting point, preferably in as many steps as you did on the "way out". Here pause and breathe again, and so on. The most natural thing to do is to just let your arms hang down next to your torso. The idea is that you walk in a natural way, rolling off your feet well and not taking too many steps.
So what is the point of this?
In general, meditation involves thoughtful reflection on a series of actions that you normally do automatically. So in this case, that's your walking movements. Focus on other sensations such as your breathing, the movement of your feet and legs, their contact with the floor. How do you actually keep your head balanced on your neck and shoulders? As you walk, are you looking at the ground, straight ahead or more upward? Do you roll your feet off the ground properly? Do you touch the ground first with your heel and then over the ball to your toes. Are you bending your toes properly to take the next step or are you sneaking it in with your heel or the side of your foot? You'll see that by paying attention to details like these, you'll automatically start walking more straight. Your shoulders will move back more and you will tighten your buttocks more.
Once you've trained this, you can apply it to longer walks, too! The more you practice, the more natural it will feel. Do your thoughts automatically wander? That's inevitable, no matter how much you try to focus your attention on other sensations. Accept that, it's perfectly natural. Just try to refocus your focus on your movement pattern.
The slow walking meditation may seem a bit excessive now. Remember that in daily life you can also apply mindfulness to walking at your preferred speed and surface. Even when running, you could try it! In fact, over time, you can try to implement the same level of awareness in any daily activity. At any time, you can experience that sense of presence. After all, practice makes perfect!
Meditating while moving, especially while walking: Buddhist monks have known for centuries that this method is enormously effective. It is therefore a proven source of health and well-being. So by combining your walks with meditation you will become totally zen!