Walking is something most of us do every day without giving it much thought. Our legs move us forward, but our minds are occupied elsewhere—listening to music, talking on the phone, or worrying about all the things that still need to be done later in the day. But walking can also be a mindful experience, an opportunity to engage your senses and appreciate your surroundings. For many people, mindful walking can also be a good entry point to meditation because it encourages you to focus your attention on the present moment
Benefits of walking meditation
Unlike walking for transportation or exercise, mindful walking is practiced with purpose and intention. In doing so, you are able to connect with the present moment and become actively engaged with the sensations of your body and your environment. You become attuned to the flow of your breath in and out of your body. You become aware of the solid earth beneath your feet.
Seated meditation is done in a quiet spot with your eyes closed. Mindful walking takes you into a setting where sights, sounds, smells, and other senses join your steady stream of inner thoughts. Learning how to focus on the simple rhythm of your footsteps can help heighten your overall power of concentration. In addition, surrounding yourself with nature can help free you from mental ruts and open your mind to a broader perspective of the world.
Get started with walking meditation
There are several types of walking meditations that exist. However, you do not need any specific training to take a mindful walk. Here are some guidelines to get you started:
- Choose a spot. Mindful walking is different from a general stroll or city walk. You will move more slowly and deliberately than usual, so it’s best to find a flat, uncrowded route where you won’t have to worry about tripping, bumping into things or other walkers, runners and cyclists around you.
- Adjust your body. Stand upright with your shoulders relaxed and your weight evenly distributed in both feet. Become aware of the feeling of your feet on the ground. Take a few deep breaths from your belly and allow your breathing to become natural and rhythmic.
- Slowly start walking. Take a step with one leg, swinging out the foot, then notice the feeling as your foot touches the ground. Does your heel hit first, and your toes follow? Or do you land on the ball of your foot and your heels and toes settle after? Keep your attention focused on the movement of feet and legs and the motion of your body as you move forward.
- Practice mindfulness. As you focus on the sensations of movement in your body, notice any feelings and thoughts that are flowing through your brain. Try not to analyze or judge any of these mental events. Instead, acknowledge them and let them pass by. If you get distracted, use your next footstep as an opportunity to bring your attention back to your movement.
- Open your senses. Allow yourself to take in the small details of your surroundings such as sights, sounds, and smells in the air. Does the air feel hot or cold? What do you smell? Take a moment to explore each sense one by one.
To get the most out of mindful walking, try to make it a regular practice. Begin with 10-minute walks. As you get more comfortable with the practice and your stamina grows, you can work up to 30 to 60 minutes at a time.
So, let’s recap
The fitness benefits of walking are no secret. Mindful walking will also improve your health and overall well-being. Walking mindfully involves concentrating on the movement of your legs and body rather than on your breathing to focus your thoughts. Walking meditation also allows you to open your senses to your surroundings and broadens your perspective of the world inviting you to see ordinary things as if they are new for the first time.