Mindfulness is an ability that can be practiced at any point in our day, either in stillness or in movement. For many, the idea of sitting still to meditate can be challenging, especially with long days of commuting and sitting at work. Though generally performed with the sole purpose of getting from one place to another, walking is so central to our lives that it makes for a ready focus for mindful, meditative attention.
Mindful walking, or walking meditation, is a way to bring awareness to our bodies and tune into the sensations that arise while in motion. It allows us to practice movement without a goal or intention and to fully appreciate the impact of the external world on our inner experience. It encourages us to let go of the urge to overthink by using our breath to help ground us and connect to our external landscape with curiosity and kindness.
Mindful walking provides an opportunity to meditate during the gaps in our life as we walk to our car in the morning, from our cars into work, down the halls between meetings, or as we leave the supermarket. It can also be a more formal practice, performed in a park, along the beach, in the woods or in a labyrinth. In creating a mindful walking practice, we can become more aware of things outside of ourselves – the wind or sun on our body, the sounds of nature and other humans and machines in our external environments.
Mindful walking has been shown to be a powerful tool for self-healing by reducing stress, increasing focus and attention, and improving quality of life. When practiced outdoors in nature, it can also contribute to uplifting mood and outlook. Since walking involves movement of the body, a regular practice creates a healthy habit of regular gentle exercise that supports the physical benefits of an active lifestyle.
Mindful walking can take place anywhere your feet will take you. It is accessible to those who use a wheelchair, as well. When practicing on sidewalks and along streets, remember to pay attention to street lights, traffic and other people. When off the grid in the woods or in parks, be aware of variations in the ground level, tree roots and branches, as well as other people.
If there are not easily accessible outdoor spaces, for either personal practice or training others, mindful walking can be practiced indoors by walking in a circle or straight line.
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