Walking Meditation: An opportunity for increasing connection to self and others
With a constant bombardment of emails, work obligations, text messages, child-care and household chores living out of balance has become our new normal.
Many of us are overworked, we have too many things on our to-do list resulting in a stress state for our bodies and minds. Chronic activation of our sympathetic nervous system eventually leads to burn out and can begin an array of physical, emotional, and mental problems.
The following is a list of symptoms we feel when we are chronically stressed: (We tend to ignore these symptoms)
• Sleep Disturbance
• Diminished or absent sexual desire/drive
• Increased vigilance and anxiousness
• Shallow breathing
• Physical tension throughout the body (back pain, shoulder pain, jaw tightness, etc.)
• Difficulty with concentration
• Bowel and bladder voiding difficulties
The challenging element regarding rushing around is that many of us are too busy to even notice how overwhelmed we are. We simply accept this as a necessity for survival in our over-burdened daily lives.
Several years ago I moved to Bali, Indonesia. I had plenty of time in my schedule and few work obligations to attend to, yet I still found myself operating on overdrive. I found myself continuing to rush around. Prior to my sabbatical, it was normal to be in a state of constant activity. What I found so perplexing was when provided the opportunity to slow down, I subconsciously maintained an unhealthy pace.
After a month or two on sabbatical, I humbly realized that having a period of freedom from the full-time pursuit of an income did not settle my nervous system. I realized I needed to make a conscious effort to re-pattern my daily routine and focus on settling my nervous system. Re-programming my survival pattern would require focus and dedicated effort.
The most effective technique that I found outside of my yoga and seated meditation practice (that I still practice today back in the U.S.) is a daily walking meditation practice. This entailed carving out a period of time, each day, to walk through the rice fields. Before heading out into the fields for my walk I’d make a conscious effort to pause for a few moments and feel my feet and body weight pressing down into the earth. I would slow my walking pace down with the intention of being more centered and connected with both my body and my surroundings.
These daily walks helped me embody being mindfully present. Walking meditation became my pivot into mindful discipline regarding most of my daily tasks. This practice has provided my mind and my body an opportunity to experience a new level of relaxation that stays with me throughout the day.
The opportunity of a walking meditation practice exists for all of us nearly every day. The duration of time is not important, the act of taking the time to mindfully focus for even a couple of minutes is all that is required to benefit from this practice.
Having a daily walking meditation practice will help you:
• Slow Down
• Experience a deeper connection with yourself
• Reduces emotional stress
• Experience a deeper connection with nature
• Have greater capacity to be present for others
How to do it
Walking meditation practice can be 10 minutes to an hour.
1. Find a location where you can comfortably walk without a lot of distractions. You can walk indoors or outdoors. A park is often a good place to practice. You’ll want to choose a path where you can strictly focus on walking.
2. Start by standing with your feet hips-width distance apart. Feel your feet grounding into the earth and take a few deep, slow breaths. Let your arms rest comfortably at your sides. Center your attention on your body and your breath. Notice any sensations you are feeling in your body and keep breathing as you study yourself from the inside out. Keep grounding in the earth.
3. Take a small slow step letting your heal lift first, followed by your arch, ball, and toe and placing your foot on the earth in front of you. Place one foot at a time. Keep a nice slow pace so you can really study each footstep. Find a place to gaze while you walk. Some people prefer to have their eyes down. Others like to take in the scenery around them.
4. Stay focused as you walk. If your mind begins to wander, slow down and bring your awareness back to the present moment. Keep paying attention to each step.
Walking meditation practice usually grows on people over time. It takes disciple and practice to slow down and pay attention to each step you are taking. Over time you might notice a heightened awareness and focus developing around your everyday activities.
I encourage you to carve out some time to try this practice. I’d love to hear about your experience in the comments below.
Are you a practitioner of walking meditation? Please post about your experience.