For a long time, walking for me involved sliding in my earphones, putting my head down and zoning out until I get to where I need to be. It’s easy to slip into a semi-conscious state where you are walking even though your mind is thinking about completely unrelated.
We often become so caught up with past events or what we’re doing in the future that we forget to enjoy the only thing we have, the present moment. Bringing mindfulness into your walking can be just as effective as helping you to become more present as meditation while sitting down.
Walking meditation can be done even for short 5 minute walks, indoor or outdoors and fits in perfectly with a busy lifestyle. All you’re really doing is redirecting your mind into the present moment. Here’s how to do it.
1. Focus on the Different Senses One by One
As you walk, take your attention fully into your senses going through them one by one. I like to start with what I physically feel in terms of touch. Is there a gentle breeze on your skin? Are your hands particularly cold or do you feel the heat of the sun on your face?
Do this for about 30 seconds or a minute before going on to the next sense. Become aware of what you smell and hear. Without getting distracted by what’s actually causing the smells or sounds, just notice that they are there.
Finally, finish by looking around you and take in all of the objects and colours that you can see. Be aware of the movement or stillness of your surroundings. Focus on each of these senses for 30-60 seconds each and you will instantly become more present.
2. Refrain from Judging
It can be easy to start judging your surroundings once you begin to bring your attention to the present moment. Your mind will habitually want to start creating narratives or explanations for the various things you see or hear. After all, that is what it’s been doing for so many years.
The way to avoid this is by simply observing your mind. Rather than allowing the thoughts and judgements to control you, just notice them as they habitually arise in your mind. After you observe your mind’s reactions, slowly return your attention back to the senses. You will find that the more you do this, the fewer judgements and thoughts will arise.
3. Turn your Attention towards Yourself
After you have spent up to a minute becoming aware of your senses and the stimuli of the environment, shift your attention to your body. Notice the way you are walking and the sensations of your limbs moving.
Although this may cause you to become slightly self-conscious, the feeling will pass quickly. Feel your weight on your feet after each step and the way it shifts from left to right.
Another way you can bring attention to your body is slowly scanning up from your toes to your head. Spending just 10 seconds being fully aware of that part of your body and how it feels.
As you use these techniques to become fully present in the moment, you will begin to enjoy the benefits of getting out of your head. If you want to read more on the benefits of meditation on your everyday life, click here. So the next time you walk somewhere, ditch the headphones and use it as an opportunity to truly experience life as it actually is.