So often we walk from place to place, lost in our thoughts, unaware of what surrounds us and the response of our own bodies.
Mindful walking is the practice of bringing our attention, in the moment, to some aspect of our walking experience – and doing so for a purpose.
This approach to developing mindfulness is designed to enhance our awareness and clear our minds of clutter, self-defeating thoughts and anxiety.
You can practise mindful walking anywhere, anytime – walking during the lunch break, taking a walk on a beach or through a rainforest, walking to the train or shops.
There are many variations you can adopt for mindful walking. You can adopt an open awareness approach taking in the sights, sounds, taste, smells and touch that surround you.
Alternatively, you can focus on some aspect of your present experience when walking, e.g. the sensation of your feet on the ground.
The Internet provides numerous resources – text, audios and videos – on mindful walking. Here is one approach by Simon Paul Harrison that combines mindful walking and mindful breathing:
Mindful walking is often recommended for people suffering stress, trauma or anxiety. RMIT, for example, through their online counselling services provides a range of online resources, including an exercise sheet and audio for mindful walking, to help students deal with the stress of study and exams.
Isabel Allende, in her book, The Sum of Our Days, describes how she frequently lost herself and found contentment on a tranquil walk in a forest:
These walks are very good for me, and at the end I feel invincible and grateful for the overwhelming abundance of my life: love, family, work, health – a great contentment. (p.299)
Another approach to mindful walking is discussed and illustrated by Chuck Hall:
You can walk anywhere mindfully if you are conscious of the opportunity. You should find an approach, timing and location that suits you so that it can be a pathway to a sustained habit of mindfulness. Once you establish the habit of mindful walking using one approach consistently, you will find that you will automatically adopt mindful walking in other situations as your consciousness of the opportunities grows.
After learning about mindful walking, I decided to use a personal approach that suited me to grow my own mindfulness. On my morning walks around the tree-lined streets and along the river, I would tune into the sounds of the birds that surrounded me. This required turning off my thoughts, tuning out other sounds and paying attention solely to the sound of the birds. I became more aware of birds above and below me, in front and behind and on my left and right side.
Invariably, as I walked, the sound of the birds seemed to stop at some point. The reality was that my thoughts had come back into my head and I had tuned out from the sounds of the birds – I had lost focus. Once I cleared my thoughts and re-focused, the sound of the birds came flooding back into my awareness again, a concert surrounding me as the birds fed off each other’s sounds.
Mindful walking induces peace, calm, clarity and contentment and helps you grow in mindfulness.
Image source: Copyright R. Passfield