Awareness of Walking
Walking is a bit like breathing in that it is a complex process that most of us do almost every day of our lives. But we seldom really think about what we are doing.
It is a complex process. This has been made clear by the difficulties that have been encountered in trying to get robots to walk in anything resembling a human gait.
Furthermore, walking has numerous physiological sensations that impact on many parts of our bodies, including our breathing.
But, in as far as we might think at all about what we are doing while walking we usually think in terms of an objective: we are walking in order to get somewhere, to get exercise, or to clear our heads of the daily clamor.
We are thinking about a future outcome or past event, seldom about the present. We forget that walking is happening while we are doing it – typical mindlessness.
Add to this the constantly changing stimuli to our senses that we experience while walking and it means that walking is an ideal activity for a meditation.
Read through the next section and then get ready to put it into practice.
Task for Today
Today’s task is going to take a bit more time to complete but you should allocate a bit of time in your day to complete it without intrusion. When you have practiced it a few times you will be able to do it while doing something else: getting some exercise, walking the dog, going to the shops – you decide.
You are going for a walk but the future objective of the walk is of no consequence. It is the present that concerns us.
The focus of this walking meditation is primarily on the physical sensations you observe but any emotions you experience are not excluded. These arise from the act of walking.
At the start. decide how much time you will spend on the walk and choose where you wish to go. Make this somewhere where you are not unduly distracted, ideally somewhere with which you are very familiar. Your own garden or immediate neighborhood are suitable. You don’t even have to go anywhere – you can walk in a circle or back and forth between two identified points.
Indeed, doing the walk in a restricted area like this will help you to let go of the need to ‘go somewhere’ as this is not the purpose. This will also help you to stop your mind wandering.
Just before you start to walk, stand still for a moment. Feel your weight of your body and the connections of your feet with the ground.
Form and then note the intention to move before you begin to walk. Be clear with yourself that this walk is part of your commitment to mindfulness and that you will walk in a mindful manner.
Lower your eyes a little and keep them there focusing of the ground a few steps ahead. This is the only space other than the space you occupy that matters.
Start walking just a little slower than you normally would and focus on your feet as they touch the ground. Be aware of the sensation of your feet hitting the ground with each step. Be aware of how the sensation changes through contact, to loss of contact, and then into the other foot.
Be aware of sensations elsewhere in your legs or torso or arms as this happens.
Your mind will wander after a while, possibly after just a few steps. Notice this and stop. Your purpose in walking is to focus your mind on the walking and when this stops you stop the actions of the walk.
After a couple of seconds bring your mind back to standing and being ready to take the first step. Do so in a similar manner as above.
Your hearing and sight will intrude every so often as you move. Note these intrusions and bring your mind back to what you are doing.
All the time you are noticing the feeling of the contact of the foot with the ground and the different sensations in your body as you transfer the weight to the other foot and lift the first foot. Over and over again.
After a while notice if there are any other sensations in your body. Are any muscles under pressure? Has your breathing changed? Has the temperature of your body changed?
Don’t judge anything – this is not a fitness exercise. It doesn’t matter how well you are walking but that you are aware of walking.
Notice the sensation of moving. This is much more a sensation in your head as your brain works to keep you balanced and upright. You may need to walk more slowly to notice this. You have been doing this since you were two years old. But have you ever noticed it before?
After the walk has ended, make a note in your journal of your experience. Then commit to doing this walk at least once per day. Remember it can be as long or as short as you wish. It’s the practice of awareness that counts.
Eventually, see if you can do this exercise by habit every time you walk.