A guest post by Venli.
“Our mind is like water in the lake. Leave it undisturbed and it becomes calm by itself after a while.” ~ Zen Master
Living in the chaotic world, it is easy to become unglued. Then, we begin the desperate hunt for peace.
Vitamins and vacations certainly help, but a ramble in the woods can be pretty effective too.
Even if you can’t always step out into a forest full of butterflies and birds, I want to share with you easy tips which would let you walk with presence, and peace of mind even in your own backyard.
Do you sometimes feel so worried that your restlessness does not ease with sitting? At such a time, walking meditation can be of big help. Instead of pacing around with anxious thoughts, you can recharge yourself with mindful walking.
Mindfulness brings our body and mind together, and we see the loveliness and wonder of nature around us.
You can walk back and forth anywhere you have 15 – 20 paces distance. There is no need to reach a specific destination.
You can practice walking meditation anywhere – in the busy mall, in your living room or in the deep woods. If you are a beginner, it would be best to choose a path where you can walk at your own pace without being disturbed.
Stay safe. As you walk, keep your eye open, be aware of whatever is around you and walk safely. Allow the beauty of nature to refresh you.
Do you remember a time when you visited a sacred place? In such a place, you would walk quietly and take each step with reverence. As you get started, become aware of the earth touching your feet. As you walk, imagine yourself, in a peaceful sanctuary, grounded in the solid splendor of earth. Feel the energy of the ground connect with you, to heal and rejuvenate you.
When you train yourself to walk with reverence, you will feel nourished and transformed after each walk.
In walking meditation, you focus on your thoughts and sensations, and label them as they arise. You track your path through space, while staying present, breath-by-breath. Mindful walking is an enjoyable way to deepen our connection with our body, the earth and our environment.
Before you begin
Take a few moments to tune into your surroundings, the sights, sounds and smells around you. Feel the sun on your face or the breeze against your skin. Feel your physical body, the rise and fall of your chest as you breathe.
Say a short prayer asking for a walk that will leave you feeling calmer, happier and more relaxed.
Beginning to walk
In mindful meditation, there are many techniques to quiet the mind. Labeling is one such technique which can help keep distracting thoughts away during your walk.
Walk slowly in a relaxed way with your hands by your sides, your eyes softly focused about six feet in front of you.
Bring your attention to your feet. Mentally label the actions of each foot.
Consider your back foot. As you lift your foot, feel the sensation of the foot lifting as you silently note, “Lift”. Then move that foot through space and notice the sensation of the foot and leg moving through space, noting, “Move”. Then place the foot on the ground feeling the sensation of the foot connecting to the earth, and mentally note, “Place”. Continue the process for 5 minutes.
If you find your mind drifting, mentally note, “Thinking” and bring your attention back to your feet.
Note the six actions of walking – raising, lifting, pushing, dropping, touching, and pressing.
What to do when your mind wanders?
It is natural for your mind to wander. If the distraction becomes very strong, pause for a moment. Focus all your attention on the sole of your foot. Don’t take the next step until you have arrived fully in the here and now.
If you feel drowsy, you can walk a bit faster. Reciting a word or phrase, may also help to activate your mind. Choose any word from your religion or spiritual practice. You can also repeat a loving-kindness prayer as you walk – “May all beings be happy. May all beings be at peace. May all beings be free from suffering.”
If you feel the mind is going deep into tranquility, and you feel like standing still, then do so.
As you continue walking place attention on the soles of your feet. Feel the legs tense as you lift your feet. In the beginning, middle and end of your path, ask, “Where is my mind?”, if it is not at the soles of your feet then bring your mind back.
It is OK for your mind to wander. Don’t get frustrated with your monkey mind. Even intermittent moments of concentration have been shown to have a calming effect on both mind and body. Without frustration, guide your mind back again and again, as many times as you need to.
As you continue walking, note the movements of your body with each step. As thoughts arise, acknowledge them and then let them go. Bring your mind back to your feet.
Notice each step as you walk. Is it not wonderful to be just alive on this beautiful planet, to breathe in and take one step?
Sights, sounds and smell will come to you from all around you. Notice them without getting caught up in whether they are pleasant or unpleasant. Each time something grabs your attention, patiently come back to the soles of your feet touching the ground.
Walk naturally, wherever you are, without feeling the need to change anything or fix anything or do anything.
This is your time to experience silence.
As come to an end of your walk, stand still for a moment. Find gratitude in your heart, and give thanks for your walk.
With practice, you will find that you no longer need the techniques of labeling or counting your steps to tether your mind.
You can practice mindful walking even in a small room or in a busy mall. If you are walking outside, be alert about the environment around you. Be aware of hazards, moving traffic, street lights and other people. Stay safe.
When you walk with-presence, conscious of what is actually happening at the moment, your mind will become quiet, and you will feel you are in touch with the whole universe. You will feel happy and refreshed after such a walk.
Please consult your health practitioner before starting any meditation or mindfulness practice. Mindfulness can have serious negative consequences. Please see the references below.
- verywellhealth: Too Much Mindfulness Can Worsen Your Mental Health
- Guardian: Is mindfulness making us ill?
- ScienceDirect: Can mindfulness be too much of a good thing? The value of a middle way
This post is a transcript of the following video: https://youtu.be/FNjD7f8kKWo