When someone tells you to meditate, what does that bring to mind? For me, it's first and foremost the rather cliché image of a person sitting on a round pillow with their legs crossed and their eyes closed, perfectly still. And, yes, I can certainly speak to the benefits practicing stillness. When I'm able to actually commit to it, I feel that it both decreases my anxiety and gives me greater clarity of mind. But because I can be a rather fidgety creature, learning how to meditate while walking or moving has been just as helpful a skill for me.
For real, meditation is kind of a broader concept and practice than we often imagine it to be. It is ultimately just a practice of focusing to create a calming state for yourself. It's similar to mindfulness and cultivates awareness and being present. Once you have a grasp on those ideas, you can kind of consider doing anything from a meditative state. But walking is definitely a good place to start.
This particular walking meditation, adapted from UC Berkley's Greater Good In Action blog, is inspired by a mindfulness expert named Jon Kabat-Zinn. If your mind feels like it is craving some solace, but the idea of sitting still seems impossible, give this approach a shot.
To begin, you just want to find a good spot to walk a straight path.
This can be indoors or outdoors. You basically just want to find a place you can be comfortable, safe, and maybe somewhere where you aren't concerned whether anybody is looking at you (not that it really matters, of course). The length you walk also doesn't have to be a long distance at all.
Just go ahead and start walking, back and forth, at least once, on your chosen path. Then stop, stand still, and breathe. Just take a moment to scan your body from head to toe, to become aware of what you are feeling. Then slowly start walking again.
Begin to consider the components of each step you take.
As Greater Good In Action reported, "Walking meditation involves very deliberating thinking about and doing a series of actions that you normally do automatically."
So, breaking down the process of walking might seem a little odd, but start by considering your breath as you move, the lifting and placement of your foot with each step. It is recommended to walk slowly to do this, as it allows for more opportunity to focus and, you know, slow down. If you want to hold your hands behind your back, that's cool, or you can let them easily wing by your side.
Then, go on and choose something particular to focus on as you move. Maybe it's simply how the bottom of your feet feel as they touch the ground, or maybe it is filling your belly with breath as you move along, or maybe how you feel inside. Are you anxious, calm, having some doubts about what you're doing?
Don't worry if your mind wanders, if you stop, or if it feels silly.
All these things are totally normal. Again, any kind of meditative practice is just about cultivating mindfulness and awareness. And the cool thing about trying new mindfulness practices, especially movement practices, is that no matter how many times you do them, the awareness of being in the moment starts to seep into other areas of your life. And don't forget, if you want to use a guided walking meditation, there are so many to choose from. There's this one on YouTube or this one that's 15 minutes. Google some more and you'll have one for every day of the week.
Now, who wants to go for a little walk?