With the sun forecast to shine and the trees and flowers bursting into bloom all around, I feel inspired to put pen to paper and give you some Tips for Mindful Walking. It is such a wonderful practice… we walk simply for the act of walking, knowing that we are walking. Without rushing, or being ‘lost in thought’, we walk with freedom and open awareness.
Tips for Mindful Walking – Change your experience
Paying attention to walking in this way can transform an unconscious mode of getting from one place to another into a vivid and interesting experience that brings refreshment to the body and calmness to the mind.
Tips for Mindful Walking
1. Before you start walking… take a moment to check your posture and make some adjustments if necessary. Notice if you are ‘holding’ anything and if so let it go. Maybe shake your whole body out before you start: your feet, legs, arms, hips, shoulders, neck, jaw, finally your eyes. Then do a few shoulder rolls in each direction before you push your shoulders back and down. Bring your attention to the base of your spine and move upwards one vertebra at a time, feel the uplift all the way to the base of your skull, without any strain. Finally, notice the openness and softness of your front and limbs as you embody open hearted alert intentional awareness.
2. Now bring your attention to your breathing. Wherever you notice it most strongly, maybe at your nose or your throat or chest or low down in the belly. Just move up close and stay with 3 breaths, for the full duration of the inbreath, and the full duration of the outbreath. Just resting on your breathing, maybe imagine surfing the waves of your breathing; each inbreath a new beginning, each outbreath, fully letting go.
3. Now, clarify your intention. When we are walking unconsciously, we usually have someplace to get to. In mindful walking, there is no goal, no place to get to…. we set aside whatever time we decide to be fully present with whatever is inside of us and all around us. Choose where you will walk and let it be somewhere where you can settle into walking and give each moment your full attention.
Tips for Mindful Walking
4. Now, take a moment to settle into standing. Feeling the weight of the body going down, the height of the body going up; noticing the connections of the feet with the ground and scanning your attention up through the body…feet, legs, hips, tummy, back, up through the arms, into the chest and shoulders, up thru the neck, the jaw, face and into the head. Notice what’s going on in your mind, acknowledge whatever thoughts / feelings are present….
5. Notice the intention to move, before you begin walking. Start a little slower than you normally do, so that you can be fully aware as the weight shifts over to one side as one foot lifts from the ground, moves through the air and then comes back into contact with the ground as the other foot simultaneously lifts, moves, lands. Just being with each foot as it kisses the ground, bringing full attention to the experience of movement in the body as you walk.
6. Being fully present in your body, noticing how your body leans to one side to begin, how you manage to balance and make ongoing adjustments all of the time throughout your body. Noticing all the physical sensations of what is happening inside of you, your body walking, breathing, your lungs and heart in constant motion. Your hearing / seeing / feeling all awake and alert.
7. Notice the quality of your attention. Is it open and accepting or hard and rigid? Soften and incline a little more, allow yourself to walk gently, softly nurturing a sense of care, kindness and tenderness to your body. Let there be a sense of appreciation for the gift of walking.
8. When your mind has settled and is calmer, extend your awareness to the environment around you, allowing yourself to savour the stillness, the aliveness of each moment.
- Feel of the clothes on your skin, the contact of your feet with the ground
- Hear the sound of the wind or whatever other sounds are around
- See what sights are to be seen in soft focus – noticing colour, texture, try to stay with the direct experience of seeing
- Smell the sea or the vegetation or smoke or the air
- Taste in your mouth – does it change?
9. Sooner, or later, your mind will wander off. You may begin planning tomorrow’s schedule or ruminating about an argument you had yesterday. As soon as you notice this, as kindly and gently as you can to yourself, bring your attention back to your breath or connect with your senses (the contact of your feet on the ground, the air on your skin) and start over…. again and again!
Tips for Mindful Walking
10. Thich Nhat Hanh says that when we are walking we can look around and see / feel how wondrous life is, inside ourselves and all around us. The light in the vast expansive sky overhead, birdsong, the caress of a breeze on our face, the smell of cut grass, the taste of morning air. We can enjoy each nourishing, healing step and imprint our gratitude upon this beloved earth.
Click here to listen to a: Free Guided Walking Meditation Audio Clip
This ‘Tips for Mindful Walking’ blog was written by Joanne O’Malley, Mindfulness at Work.