This week I have consciously chosen to pay attention to walking.
This could be as I cross the office, the two minutes it takes to walk to my car or for a longer period of time such as when I am walking around town or along my local beach.
Mindful walking is a form of mindful movement, where we use the experience of walking as an anchor the attention.
How to practice mindful walking
I have found that it is good practice to start from being still (standing) and dropping my attention down to where my feet connect with the floor.
Once I feel the sensation of my feet on the ground, I then expand my attention to take in my entire body.
When I am ready I begin to walk, feeling my feet leave and strike the floor, noticing how my body feels as it moves forward.
Chatting with others, it seems some find they focus on their bodies in a way they don't when practicing mindfulness of breath. This is probably because the sensations accompanying walking are a lot stronger than the sensation of our breathing.
It’s easier to pay attention to movement than stillness.
We can also pay attention to different aspects of walking; our heel peeling from the ground, our weight rolling to our toes, our leg swinging from our hip or we might choose to use one of other senses as an anchor for our attention such as sights, sounds or breezes on our skin.
I only went out for a walk and finally concluded to stay out till sundown, for going out, I found, was really going in (John Muir)
Be aware though that mindful walking in places where there is traffic, comes with risk not to mention distractions!
If you are in such a place, you might choose to practice a street at a time.
I find my attention is often taken away from bodily sensations to the sounds of traffic, birds or people. When I notice my attention has moved, I bring my awareness back to my feet before paying attention to my whole body again.
Other times, I just go with it and let sounds become my anchor for that moment.
What is interesting to me about mindful walking is when I do it with others we discover that we each are pulled by different distractions. It seems for me my strongest sense is hearing whilst for others it's the sights around them.
Why bother with mindful walking?
Walking is generally an activity we pay no mind to. It is something we can do whilst doing something else, something we do on autopilot.
It is when we are on autopilot we can find ourselves getting lost in thought, more often than not worrying about the future, fretting about the past, planning, analysing and generally forgetting that we live in the present.
Having a simple way to return to the here and now is useful.
What’s unique about mindful walking is that it's an easy practice to make part of your day. This makes it a really powerful way of bringing yourself regularly into the present.
When I sit at my desk I am concentrating on the task at hand but when I leave to get a drink, use the bathroom, go get lunch, other thoughts may come.
Whilst some might be useful (remember to post that birthday card), others might be what I call waste thoughts (repetitive churning, over-analysing etc). Purposely focusing on my feet and the sensation of walking helps me not get dragged into a thinking loop.
The other thing I like about it is that it's a form of stealth meditation.
No one knows when I am doing it. I can do it anytime, anywhere and people just see me walking.