Our motion, a walk, can so often feel like simply a void between where we have been & where we are going. A walk can mirror our mind in this way. When our thoughts are of things that have passed & the things to come we are never here. Since neither the past or the future exist, the one gone the other not yet here, perhaps it is time we devoted our attention to what is actual. It is in this way, spending time in the present, that we can start to be.
We can experience the present through our senses, we can feel it and intuit our way. It is not a projection or a memory. We can witness the present and we can take part. A walk is a good place to start; making it a mindful experience of our own journeying, connectivity, body and surrounds, rather than limbo, or a means between A and B.
- 1. As you start to walk, begin to concentrate on your breath. Breathe deeply & easily. Be aware of the number of strides you take to each long in-breath. How many to each out-breath. Spend a minute or two with this and feel the rhythm and connection between the strides and the breath.
2. Try to lengthen each breath by one stride for each in-breath, by one for each out.
3. Be aware of what you can see, what you can hear, the feel of your feet on the surface of the ground. Be aware as a witness, without forming judgement or encouraging thoughts further than a recognition of what you see, hear and feel; the birdsong, the breeze, voices, rustle of leaves, sounds of traffic or machinery, blinking of lights. Be aware of your intuitive and bodily response to each. Allow it to be acknowledged and fade.
4. Be aware of sensations in your body. The synchronicity between your breath and your movement, the beating of your heart, heat or cold, any bodily aches and the thoughts that come. Again be aware as a witness. Simply recognise the sensations that come, recognise the thoughts and return to awareness of your breathing. Neither will nor suppress your thoughts. Only witness.
5. Stop for a minute or two. If the circumstances allow remove your shoes and socks. Walk a short distance and then return. If there is a path and there is grass or earth, walk a little on the path, then back on the grass. Be aware of how this feels and the difference. Be aware of your surroundings, the sounds and sensations.
6. Close your eyes, just for a moment or two. Continue to breathe. Deeply and easily. Lift your shoulders, create space for the breath. Inflate your stomach as your breathe in. Empty it slowly and fully as you breathe out. Stand on the earth or the grass if circumstances allow. With each in-breath understand that you are drawing in nourishment from the earth through your feet and up through your body. With each out-breath you are expelling the stresses, anxieties and toxicity that has accumulated, through your body, through the soles of your feet, into the earth.
7. Continue to walk in this way; witnessing your breath, your movement, the sensations, thoughts, sounds and surrounds. When you arrive at your destination, be aware for a moment of how you feel, of your body and of any changes.
I was taught this simple walking meditation in India, at Shreyas Retreat near Bangalore, walking amongst beautiful, organic flora and birdsong and this is the version it has become. It transforms a walk from an inconvenience into a delicious opportunity, a means of connection with our bodies, with the world and with the present. It can be practiced anywhere and whether you are walking to a pre-considered destination or not. It is liberating and beautiful to realise that we need not always be in transit. Even as we transit.
With love, Paul