We all know the benefits of relaxation, but it can be hard work slowing down a busy head and getting to the point of really feeling relaxed. Walking meditation is a beautiful way to integrate gentle movement with awareness. In a similar way to the practice of yoga or qigong, mindful walking draws our busy mind away from external obligations and distractions and leads it to focus on the gentle activity we are performing with our body.
This simple practice helps the mind settle and become more peaceful as it is kept occupied in away that draws it's energy inward where it can rest and reflect. In a way this is a literal act in "reigning your mind in" and it's surprisingly effective.
You can practice mindful walking anywhere and any time you want to. You can practice indoors or outside, all you need is somewhere where you can walk peacefully and undisturbed for a few minutes.
Choosing Where To Walk
You could create a pathway in your garden, or choose an area that forms a natural path or circuit that feels right for you. When my mother in law was living with long-term illness she would walk everyday in the wooded area of her garden. Over weeks, her walking wore a path that is still there ten years later. Sometimes I go and walk that path and think of how she found comfort in walking through the trees.
You could walk in a park, or down the street, so long as you feel you can relax and focus in your chosen space.
How to Practice Mindful Walking
Begin at a slow steady pace. Not so slowly that you feel unsteady on your feet though. Pick a rhythm that feels smooth and natural to you and let your arms rest relaxed at your sides.
Check that your shoulders are relaxed and loose, release any tension in your jaw and mouth and gaze softly ahead with your eyes resting on the ground a few feet ahead of you.
Step gently and make sure that you are comfortable.
Put your full attention on the sensations of your feet as they walk. Notice one foot leave the ground and then make contact with it again. Feel your feet rise and fall in turn.
Counting Steps, Counting Breaths
To engage your mind further, try fitting your breath with your pace. For example, taking four steps with every breath in and four steps with every breath out. Find your own rhythm and count your steps as you breathe and walk.
If your mind wanders just bring it back and begin counting again, or simply noticing your feet carrying you forward across the ground.
The Benefits of Regular Practice
You might practice mindful walking for five minutes, or twenty, if you're life already feels busy and the idea of spending large amounts of time learning to relax or meditate seems overwhelming, then it's good to know that just five minutes mindful walking each day can help you find some mental space and peace of mind.
The key is in practicing regularly, you might walk for fifteen minutes one day and only five minutes in your lunch hour the next. That's fine, the benefits will come when you nurture the habit of a little mindful movement every day.
Photo by Pink Sherbet Photography
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