We all know how to walk, right? One foot in front of the other, autopilot. What about mindful walking? Sometimes described as a 'walking meditation’ where you focus on your body’s feelings and the surroundings. Combining walking with mindfulness practice can provide physical and mental health benefits. Not only using calories but also stress reduction, mood enhancement, improved sleep quality and life satisfaction.
So how does one practice mindful walking? Firstly, let’s not overcomplicate things. Get out to a quiet spot if you can find one or practice this during your next walk or outdoor activity. Try it for a few minutes at first and over time you can increase the duration.
Start by standing still and collecting your senses. Take a moment or two to centre yourself before commencing to walk. You might want to do a short meditation but, for this specific activity and article, the purpose is to move.
Walk. Walk slowly, feel the sensation of your feet moving over the ground. Try this with or, if safe, without shoes. As you walk scan through your body. What are the internal sensations that you feel?
Breathe. Be aware of your breathing. Breathe naturally and calmly. Not too deep, not too shallow. Fill your lungs and exhale. What is the sensation of your breath moving?
Feel. As you walk what else do you experience. The sun on your skin? What are the sounds around you. What about the wind, in the trees or moving on your skin? How does the area smell? Are there urban or natural fragrances in the air?
Finish. Come to a standstill. Take a couple of breaths. Reflect on what you experienced. What was enjoyable, what was difficult, what new sensations occurred, what will you do next time?
In principle mindful walking sounds very simple and in some respects it is. In practice (and practice makes perfect) to find and live in the moment isn’t always quite so easy. Some people enjoy using mindfulness apps while they walk but I prefer the experience using all my senses focused on myself and the environment. Want to take meet like minded people? Look for a local mindful walking or forest bathing (in Japanese known as "shinrin-yoku") group. Or, if you are in Singapore, contact me and we can go together.
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