The walking of everyday life tends to be birthed of a certain purpose, and rarely is a purpose of walking for the sake of walking. Busy-ness serves as the bow that launches the arrow of intent of such walking. Hurried walking from one day with the intent of making it through to the next day as quickly as possible, leads to weeks, then months, then years, and left unabated, then a lifetime of hurried steps. Hurried steps are not limited to walking, for the movement from place to place is the offspring of the workings of the mind. Thus, hurried steps reflect a hurried mind, and a hurried mind becomes a hurried life (I’m sure we all are familiar with the adage “haste makes waste”).
Walking may seem like the most simplest of activities, and sure it may be, but when we walk, are we really aware of the act of walking, or is it more of a means to an end? Mindful walking, however, is something far more involved than one might realize, simply because the mind is coming along for the ride. When the mind is present (as it always is), no seemingly simple task such as paying attention to the steps one takes, is ever straight forward. The mind jumps around like a little monkey, from here to there, and back to here again, then over to a new place, then somewhere else still. To force this monkey behind the wheel to actually focus on one thing and one thing only, is a monumental request, and it is one that he will no doubt rebel against. We must give the little fellow a banana to bide his time, to leave us with focus to lock our awareness to. That banana is breathing and empty detachment from the thoughts that arise. Detachment simply means ‘not attaching to’ – letting thoughts come and go as they will.
Still Mind-ful Walking
To help keep the mind from having any additional distractions that can entice it to stray from the present action and moment, its best to perform walking meditation in a place where there are not a lot of people and happenings of modern life. It can be indoors, or outdoors, but again no place where potential distractions loom. You can walk around your dining room table, the living room, or outside in a secluded spot. While walking, gently keep your gaze directly in front of you, not looking around extraneously, and not looking at your feet. As with anything we do of this nature, force is never used to attempt to keep one’s attention on anything. When the thoughts wander off, bring your awareness to it, then return back to the task at hand, with no irritation or frustration.
Take your first step, feeling the ground on your foot as you set it down. Listen to the sound the reverberates to the ear drums. The next step, the same, and step after step, made to the beat of your breathing. One method that I like very much follows below:
Breathe in for four steps, each step counting as one beat. Exhale stepping as you did on the inhale, again with each step counting as one beat. Do this until you reach “ten”, then start over again from “one”. The pace of your walking should be relaxed, and slow and steady enough to enable your mind to experience each step wholly and equally. A good pace to keep is that of about one second per step. Initially, a second may not seem long enough to be mindful of one’s every step, but you would be surprised as to how slow it will be. When you slow down to one step per second, you will find that you are walking fairly slowly in comparison to what you are use to.
A good ten minutes of this is all that is needed, but it is fine to go longer if one wishes. This walking meditation can also be done at normal walking speed. Of course, when walking faster, it’s not going to be possible to bring the whole of your attention to each detail of your individual steps. Instead, simply be aware of each foot hitting the ground, and the sensation of the whole body moving as a unit. Even when walking at a normal pace, I still like to sync my walking with my breathing. I will do this while walking to the store, and/or returning from it, or just a casual stroll outdoors. My walks are always in a relatively peaceful place, with trees and green abound–especially conducive to stillness of mind.
I invite you to try some mindful walking, if you feel as though you would like to work some moving stillness into your day and your life.
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