Walking provides a great opportunity for training the mind because it’s something that we do every day. It’s very natural, very ordinary and something that is totally unconscious thing to do because we learn it at such a young age.
Often when we’re walking we are thinking; what shopping we’ve got to get, going over conversations you’ve had with people that day that you were bothered by, or worrying about a meeting you’ve got to go to later in the day. All of these kind of thoughts are distractions from the present; we’re either projecting into the future or looking back into the past. I often find my very best creative ideas pop into my head when I’m walking which is a great way to release your ideas.
Walking, Thinking and Not Seeing
But what happens when we’re busy with all those thoughts is that we completely miss what’s right there in front of us that day. We lose the chance to see and celebrate everything that day gives us, or to act on what’s there right in that moment. The loss of Charlotte Bevan and her child, with so many people wondering why no-one intervened on her lonely walk to her untimely end, brought that sharply into focus for me. Sometimes we just don’t see.
Walking mindfully is a great way to be aware of the moment, and really see, experience and enjoy what’s all around us. That day, that moment, which will never come again. I’ve been doing it daily lately as soon I know I’m moving to another part of the country and I want to take time out to appreciate the place I’ve lived in for 27 years and often failed to appreciate, so that I take it with me.
If you’re worried about walking mindfully because you think you might trip up or walk accidentally under a bus (much more likely if you’re distracted and stressed about that To Do list…) here’s what I do on a Mindful Walk which might help you try it out.
A Step By Step (haha) Guide to Walking Mindfully
If you already meditate, you may have your own way of getting into a meditative state. I’ve learned through Headspace so this is how I do it.
- I choose a section of my walk to be mindful; from the door to the station or from the car to the first clump of trees or turn in the park. When you start out this helps because it breaks your periods of concentration down into bite-sized do-able chunks.
- Start with several very deep breaths in and out, allowing the out breath to really blow out quite loudly (it can surprise people but don’t worry) just as I would for any meditation then allow your breathing to return to a normal rhythm once you feel your body start to relax
- Focus on your physical feelings; simply focus on what you feel on your skin – wind, sun, rain – what you hear – traffic, footsteps, planes, birds, winds – what you smell – traffic fumes, coffee, bakery smells, perfume as someone passes – so that you are connected to what your body is experiencing in that precise moment.
- Wait to take the first step until your eyes have softened and your frontal and peripheral vision has become aware of everything around you in a muted way, almost like turning down the light intensity in a room
- Start walking, really consciously observing everything you see along the way and gently pulling your mind back to the present every time you notice that it has wandered off to that ‘to do’ list or any other thought
- As I’m walking sometimes I choose an object to focus on; not to make that object the whole focus of my walk but just to allow me to see something that I pass every day differently, in a new light. Sometimes it’s a building, sometimes it’s a tree, sometimes it’s a bus stop, sometimes I will choose to just really see and notice faces
- At the end of your mindful walk, take a big old stretch right up through your fingers as if I was reaching for the sky and take one final moment to look around you. Then walk on and carry on with your day.
When you start out you can try it just for ten minutes at a time. I find that it’s a great way to appreciate and deepen your connection with your neighbourhood, with nature and with the world. Hike Yourself Happy, Walk Well, and let us know how you get on with your mindful ventures.