At various times in my adult life it has become more difficult to meditate in the most traditional way; sitting comfortably in a quiet room for perhaps 10 or 20 minutes at a time. This has been during particularly ‘busy’ periods, like when working (very) long hours on Covid-19 response projects for work, or heavily pregnant when sitting in any position for more than 10 seconds was uncomfortable. Right now I have a newborn baby to look after, and between feeding, winding, changing and contact-napping, there isn’t a huge amount of time to sit and meditate like I used to. But I know myself and my mind, and I know how important it is for me to keep up some sort of practice for the benefit of my happiness, my mental health and my sanity!
When training as a meditation teacher, one of the techniques we learnt to teach was a walking meditation. It was actually my first time ever doing a walking meditation myself, and I was very pleasantly surprised at its simplicity and impact. It just has so much going for it; simple, can be woven into every day activity, and is an ‘invisible’ meditation so you can do it anywhere; home, work, supermarket, dog-walking. No one will even know if you don’t want them to.
The premise of the walking meditation is simply to apply careful attention to your steps as you walk. It can be thought of as the act of connecting the body with the Earth, through the feet.
Afghan nomads traditionally practised this in a form very similar to a walking meditation, walking up to 37 miles every day yet still remaining fresh-faced and energetic after such lengthy travels on foot. They credited this ability to the pairing of the breath with their steps, also known as paced breathing. This creates a rhythmic form of movement, providing focus for the mind and a gentle gait to preserve the energy of the body.
It is also a brilliant form of meditation for stress relief. On many occasions recently I have simply taken a short walk round our block to de-stress, and employed a walking meditation to help me restore some feeling of calm and peace. It’s also ideal for me right now as I can also do this whilst pushing the pram! And, it can be enjoyed over a walk of 1 minute or 1 hour.
The act of focusing on the breath and of the feeling of the feet connecting to the floor, means I don’t get lost in that internal narrative – usually a negative one if the driver for my walk has been to de-stress. Instead, I will gently and compassionately return my focus to my breath each time I realise my attention has wandered. Each time I need to do this, I see it not as a failure to maintain my focus, but as a successful attempt at noticing when my attention has wandered. This simple switch in perception means I can employ self-compassion and kindness throughout.
If you would like to give it a try, read my short description of the meditation here:
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