This week I have consciously chosen to pay attention to walking. This could be for a minute as I cross the office, the three minutes it takes to walk to my car or for a longer period of time when I am walking around town or along my local beach.
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. And when we are on autopilot we may get lost in thought, worry about the future, fret about the past, plan, analyse and generally forget that we live in the present.
Mindful walking is a form of mindful movement, where we can use the experience of walking as a means to focus our attention on something that is happening now.
How? I have found that it is good practice to first be still (standing) and drop my attention down to where my feet connect with the floor. Once I feel the sensation of my feet on the ground, I then bring my attention to my legs and up my entire body. I centre my attention on my 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.
Chatting with others, it seems some find they focus on their bodies in a way they don't when practising 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.
Be aware though that mindful walking in busy places with traffic, comes with risk. If you are in such a place, you might choose to practice a street at a time. It also takes place in an environment filled with potential distractions.
I am often taken away from bodily sensations to the sounds of traffic, birds or people. When I notice my attention being taken, I bring my awareness back to my feet. Other times, I just go with it and let the sounds be my anchor for that moment.
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)
What’s unique about mindful walking is it can easily become part of your day and can be done anywhere. This makes it a really useful way of bringing yourself regularly into the present.
I think anything that can help bring me into the present useful. 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 can help me feel grounded.
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 sights around them.
What about you, have you found your strongest sense?
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