Walk it Off

Those of you who know me well, would most likely not describe me as being ‘graceful.’ I have always been somewhat vertically challenged, knocking over objects and people on a regular basis. Enter:  walking meditation. Now, wait just a moment–don’t tune out just yet. If the word ‘meditation’ makes you think of unshaved armpits, incense, and dreadlocks then pause a moment.

By the way, I happen to love hairy armpits, incense, and dreadlocks. Anyway, walking meditation is meditation in action. It is great for making you more spatially aware and therefore less likely to careen into small children or glass doors. This is something you can do walking to the train in the morning, and you can incorporate it throughout your day to help maintain a calm mind and improve balance.

What is walking meditation?

Walking meditation is literally walking while making an effort to be mindful of your surroundings, your breath, and all of the sensations that you feel. Before you use this on your way to work in the morning, take five or ten minutes (set an alarm on your phone) and practice it at home.

How do I do walking meditation?

First, make sure you are in a room or some place that screaming children cannot find you. Okay. Excellent. You may find it easier at first to do this without shoes. Standing, take a few deep breaths. Now, put one foot forward, stepping slowly down onto the floor, and pause. How does the floor beneath that foot feel to you? Where are your arms and hands and how does the sensation of them touching your sides feel? Now repeat with the other foot. Try not picking up your back foot until the front foot is totally flat on the ground. Then, when you do pick up your back foot, peel it off of the floor slowly, registering the texture and feeling of the floor beneath you. Oh, and do not forget to breathe.

Once you have this mastered, check in with your thoughts. I actually find it easier to meditate while walking rather than sitting. The external stimulus gives me something tactile to focus on while still maintaining a calm mind. When thoughts of any nature enter your head, simply say to yourself ‘thinking, thinking,’ and go back to focusing on your body, breathe, and surroundings. The important thing is to not judge yourself. There is no right or wrong, no good or bad way to do this.

Who should do walking meditation?

Well, while not everything is right for everyone….I believe everyone who has the ability to put one foot in front of the other could benefit from this. Leave a little early for work if you take the train or bus and walk mindfully to your destination. You will be amazed at the effect it has on your day.

Where  can I practice walking meditation?

Anywhere you can walk! It is sort of like kegels in the fact that no one else will know when you are doing it.

How can I transition from really slow walking in my living room to using this in public without seeming like a total freak?

While I throughly advocate being a freak in public, one can achieve the appearance of normalcy with practice. It is possible to walk with some speed while doing this, as several YouTube videos feature a very blonde young lady (with dreadlocks!)demonstrate.

 Studies

While there have not been a lot of scientific studies published on walking meditation, here are some related articles on mindfulness practices.