In The Miracle of Mindfulness, Thich Nhat Hanh, writes, "In mindfulness one is not only restful and happy, but alert and awake. Meditation is not evasion; it is a serene encounter with reality.”
When I first learned about the powers of meditation, I thought I'd need to sit crossed legged on the floor, surrounded by mystical lighting and deep intentions. While that still sounds blissful (adding tranquility room to my vision board), meditation can happen in many forms and also evolves over time as a unique and individual experience.
There are days when my meditation is quiet, peaceful, still, and can go anywhere from 30 minutes or more, and then there are days when my body feels restless and I know trying to sit still won't allow my mind to reach the clarity I'm seeking.
Enter the world of walking meditation.
Walking meditation, commonly referred to as mindful walking or mindful movement, is essentially meditation in action, it's walking without an urgency of getting from place to to place, but instead, fully noticing the details of the steps you're taking, your surroundings, your breath, and the way your body feels as you move.
Mindful.com even has a helpful guide with illustrations by Jason Lee for how to position your body during a walking meditation that you can instantly access here.
If you've ever meditated or have a regular meditation practice of your own, you may already be familiar with many of the benefits, including a deeper sense of self, a calming mindset, and the ability to better let go of negative or intrusive thoughts.
Some of the benefits of walking meditation include:
- Allowing your mind and body to slow down and readjust the speed of your thoughts
- Connecting with nature and the world around you
- Deepening your mind body connection and the ways in which your body communicates with you
- Taking a break from the mental chaos of day to day life and finding focus on what matters
- Increase your mindfulness and ability to stay present
Through walking meditation we can better develop not only our sense of intention but our awareness as well. Each step you take involves focusing on the earth beneath you, the pressure of your foot on the ground, the give of the soil or surface below you, the force that flows back up through your leg and into your body as you form the kinetic energy of movement, and so on.
When we begin to notice where we are going, we then allow ourselves the gift of choosing where we will move next.
So how can you begin? Where do you start? And maybe most importantly, where should you go?
While being out in nature can be prime for feeling relaxed and at ease, there are times when this might not be possible. Below, I've listed some creative ways to explore the realm of walking meditation that you can begin to explore for yourself.
Find a Labyrinth
Now you finally know what these are all about! When I was little I laughed at rock labyrinths, thinking that you could easily see the way out and walk right over the walls. Today, I find that labyrinths are not only everywhere but if you look closely enough, you'll see amazing details and hidden objects in many of them. Something you might just miss if you're not walking mindfully ;) The notion of walking a labyrinth involves "circling to the center" and giving focus and intention to the present moment or something you'd like to gain clarity on.
Ways to find Labyrinths:
Explore a new park...without your phone
Another great way to practice walking meditation is to take a trip to a local park and explore without distraction. This means purely walking to walk mindfully without RunKeeper, without fitness apps, without taking photos, checking in on Swarm, or updating your Facebook status. You'll find that doing so allows you to fully be in the moment in the presence of nature and it can give you a ton of mental energy!
Explore the outdoors with a dog
Before I had a dog of my own I often paid very little attention when I walked to my mailbox and back. I've heard many times that dogs are the keepers of the present moment and I could not agree more. Whenever I take my dog Bella for a walk, she reminds me to notice the details of nature. Just the other day she paused and raised her head to gaze up at the canopy above us. Moments later, hundreds of fall leaves began to trickle down to the ground as the wind picked up. She looked so focused, calm, and in awe of the moment, I couldn't help but do the same.
Don't have a dog of your own? Ask a friend to watch theirs for the day or ask a neighbor if you can walk their dog for a week. Or volunteer at your local shelter or SCPA! They'll be happy about the offer and you'll get to bond with both the dog and nature.
Start in your own backyard
When I lived in a 400sq ft studio in Seattle I didn't have a yard but there was this beautiful square courtyard of grass in between the 1950s buildings that I could open my backdoor out onto. This space, or any area outside can be the perfect place to start. Even if you're simply looking at where you step, walking slowly, and breathing, you can begin to notice your body, the air, and work your way closer to a more aware mind.