You hear it more and more lately, mindful walking or a walking meditation. I’m all for it. For me the added value of meditation has been proven, but also the added value of walking. How good it is then to combine the two now. I also think that it is easier for the beginner of meditation to do something in the meantime but also to get try to meditate than to sit down in lotus position and start meditating.
Especially in this time that we don’t make a lot of time for ourselves but we’re living a busy life, sitting still is just very difficult. So as a stepping stone to meditating in the lotus position you can very well go for a mindful walk or a walking meditation. Of course your ultimate goal does not have to be to sit down and meditate, but getting more out of your walk is a charity in itself!
Go Mindful Walking – Tips for a Walking Meditation
Unconsciously you will already be doing this, especially if you walk alone you will have all the time for this and your thoughts will start flowing about things you didn’t know you remembered. This is already a kind of meditation and a kind of processing of those moments that are apparently still there. The art of meditation is that you don’t dwell on all those thoughts, all those situations that pass by, let them pass by and let them go away again.
Did you know that? Our brain is a master at hiding thoughts it doesn’t really want to be involved with.
If you want to deal with traumas (big or small), your brain has to give you the opportunity to do so. Our brain really has a will of its own and it imposes it on us too often. Your brain does this by bombarding you with thoughts about anything and everything. Unfortunately, we are all too happy to go with those superficial thoughts. Fantasizing about something you’ve done or something you’re going to do. Doesn’t that work as a distraction? Your brain will then starts bombarding you with situations where you are annoyed by something. And how nice it is to be able to be ‘pissed’ about that again.
Try to resist those distractions the brain gives you and push them aside. There’s plenty of other time to do that, but not now. The brain doesn’t want to be in the here and now so it will continue to bombard with those memories or prospects.
What benefits can you expect from mindful walking?
Take a mindful walk and notice that you will feel less stressed afterwards. You experience that you can organize your time better and notice that you spend your time better.
Also experience that your concentration improves because you can focus better and are less distracted. All positive effects of meditative walking.
You learn to break through patterns and to see that you are allowed to change and can change.
In the end you just get happier from mindful or meditative walking because of the positive changes mentioned above. You learn to enjoy the little things in life again. Those things that really matter in the end!
So how nice it is to combine walking with meditation. Take the time for yourself by walking for an hour and enjoy nature and work on your meditation in the meantime. Eventually the benefits of mindful walking will seep through all kinds of aspects of your life and you’ll find that life is easier and you’ll see fewer bears on the road!
Tips for a Walking Meditation
What exactly is mindful walking?
Mindful walking is about making time for yourself. That you focus your full attention on what matters at the moment. And that is you! So feel where you are and how your body is. Feel how you are… feel your feet on the ground, feel the contact you make with the earth.
Try to feel your whole body. Go from your feet up through your calves, feel the tension that every step brings. Feel your muscles tighten and relax with each step. Feel your knee bend and stretch again. And feel what it does to your kneecap. Do you feel your own kneecap? And do you feel it move? What do you feel? Do you feel what’s happening in the joint?
Try to feel your body as good as possible. If you concentrate well on what you can feel in your body, in your muscles or even in your joints, you will notice that time can easily pass 5 or 10 minutes and you haven’t even ‘finished’ your legs yet.
In the beginning it is difficult and you maybe don’t feel anything, or you only feel where the clothing touches your calf or where you actually make a movement. It doesn’t matter, feel that in every facet where you can feel it. So make those feelers in your body sharp again, they don’t know what to focus on anymore… that’s why we don’t feel it. We’re mostly busy with the world around you in this society and hardly on what’s inside you anymore... That’s why we don’t feel it anymore, that’s why we don’t know… it’s there and you can feel it!
Did you know that during the 200-hour yoga course in Pushkar we went for an hour of meditative walks every morning?
How are you mindful walking
Pick that walk you know. A walk on which you shouldn’t think too much about where to go, which roads to take and how far you still have to go. When you walk the 5 km in one hour, choose the one you know that is 5 km.
We all have thoughts that go on and on… Sometimes it stays so busy in your head with all kinds of thoughts. Realize what you can really do with those thoughts at that moment.
Are those thoughts really necessary and important now, or can you postpone them?
Be aware of that. Be in control of your own thoughts… Do I need them now, here in the woods or on my walk? Or are they more suitable for another moment?
Grant yourself the time
Don’t put a time limit on your mindful walk. Sometimes after 10 minutes you’re done with it …. but sometimes you walk is so nice that you think after half an hour, gosh, that went well! Give yourself that time, give yourself that rest. If you don’t manage to keep your mind on your body you just walk a bit and start again after a few hundred meters. You have nothing else to do at that moment and the best thing you can do is try.
Just try again!
No top athlete or winner has ever done it all at once! They too train again and again, their trick or whatever it is they do. Remember: practice makes perfect…
Mind your breathing
Just breathe through your nose. As with meditation, it is better to only breathe through the nose.
Nose in and mouth out is a way to calm down in case of extreme anxiety or if you really don’t feel well. I use this on the street in my work. You don’t have the peace and quiet to breathe out through your nose.
We have that peace and quiet here. Try to make the exhalation as long as possible without getting out of breath and breathing in again too quickly. But that exhalation should be able to be longer than the inhalation. That way your body cleans too. When you exhale, waste products are released from your body. We do not always think about that, but it is an important part of breathing. Breathing well is important, read more about that breathing.
Go Mindful Walking – Tips for a Walking Meditation
Feel yourself completely while mindful walking
As I explained earlier, you’re going to try to feel your body step by step. So start with your foot, do you feel the ground beneath it? Feel how you place your foot on the ground. Feel how your foot rolls it off… But also, feel that little toe, feel all the toes… and feel your instep… Try to feel all the facets that are there.
If you can’t, you can grab big parts of body. So just feel the foot and then go straight to your lower legs, calves and shins. Feel your thighs, feel that tension that a step brings about. Feel your hips… and so to your back, front body, arms, throat/neck and face and skull.
It is quite normal that you may not be able to feel certain parts at all. That you suddenly feel some places very well. Keep scanning your whole body and in the meantime try to learn how you perceive one spot and not another. In the meantime, realise that you can feel but that in some places you do not yet feel the right way or that you are temporarily not in contact with it.
Is there a blockage there?
By continuing with your exercise, continuing to scan your skin and concentrating your thoughts in your body, you will be able to find your way again. Attention will again be given to the different places and also to the emotion caused by the blind spot, the blockage. These are unconscious processes that take place in the background. Deep inside everything happens and sometimes it’s a good thing that we don’t know and feel everything. But this is basically what we do it for. Unconsciously you are busy getting better, processing and healing yourself.
Did you know that body parts are in contact with emotions? Know that not feeling something also has a meaning.
How to deal with emotion that comes up?
It is important not to suppress emotions. Recognize that there are these emtions, but don’t go into it. Accept that emotions are there (still) and do not give the emotion extra charge. Thoughts come and go and so does this thought and emotion. It won’t take long before you feel the emotions subsiding. Emotions need nourishment to survive, if you have sadness they need tears… If you feel anger that energy is needed in the form of punching, hitting or shouting, if you feel happiness that energy is needed to continue to exist in the form of laughing and daydreaming. Stay with your thoughts in the here and now, only realize that this emotion is there, feel it but don’t go with it, feel the emotions flow away. Continue to feel your body after this.
I learned this way of approach during the Vipassana. In this way the emotion will be less deeply rooted in you and bother you less in your life in whatever way it was. Sometimes we don’t realize it at all anymore but afterwards we notice how it has changed us.
Learn from nature to break patterns.
Recognize in a positive way that even in nature things sometimes go where it can’t go… Trees grow through fences…signs of walks are incorporated into a tree trunk. You don’t think you can…but you can!
Realize that this works just the same for us. It’s just not what you thought at first…but your goal can be achieved! Everybody knows the examples you thought would never make it because it just seemed impossible. Roads seem to open and pathways become free the moment you put yourself up to it. I’ve experienced that myself on several levels.
Do you have any examples of that?
I like to hear them and I like to learn from them!
To finish your mindful walk…
Stand still and listen carefully to what’s going on around you
During the first part of your mindful walk we tried not to be aware of your surroundings but to perceive your body. To be truly aware of your body, that is the essence of mindful walking.
If you have succeeded in doing this for 15 to 20 minutes, then that is great! Then, as a final step, try to slowly direct your consciousness to the outside world and to experience what is outside so intensely.
See, hear, feel, smell nature and life.
Probably you will succeed after this walking meditation with more energy and focus. Maybe you will notice the difference soon, maybe you have to walk mindful a few times to notice the difference. I hope that after some time you will also notice the benefits in your daily life.
I do hope I can inspire you to try this as well.
Give it a chance and be surprised!