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During short or prolonged periods of stress and anxiety, exercise and meditation practices have been found to help people maintain their physical and mental health. And while popular forms of meditation and mindfulness, such as yoga or tantra, are more likely to be used in stressful situations, there is another form of meditation that can be easily incorporated into everyday life. Mindful walking, a simple approach to mindfulness and meditation, can help you keep moving while focusing on your body and the many ways it strengthens you.
Mindful Walking Exercise
As the country enters another month of the COVID-19 pandemic and everything that comes with it, consider trying mindful walking to calm your body, mind, and spirit. Here’s everything you need to know about mindful walking: what it is, how to do it, and its benefits.
Quick Mindfulness Exercises You Can Do Anywhere
Walking meditation is a simple approach to mindfulness that’s easy to incorporate into your daily routine. As the name suggests, walking meditation allows you to focus on the physical experience of walking.
“Walking meditation is really an opportunity to bring a conscious presence to the moment when you’re moving,” Diana Shimkus, a mindfulness teacher in Encinitas, California, tells Woman’s Day.
“I think walking meditation begins the moment your feet hit the ground in the morning,” she continues. “It’s a real opportunity to just ground [and] be grounded in our own body, feeling our feet on the ground. And then, as we go from lying down to sitting and from sitting to standing and then from standing walking, we can simply remain in the body and use each lift, movement and position as an opportunity to remain in bodily presence.
Mindfulness expert Jon Kabat-Zinn’s walking meditation guide says the first step to mindful walking is to find a quiet place where you can have purpose at the beginning of your practice. This space can be indoors or outdoors, in your own backyard, in a park, or literally anywhere else that can facilitate a moment of exciting rest.
Walking Meditation: How To Practice And The Benefits
Next, you need to take the first real physical steps. Kabat-Zinn’s guide recommends taking 10 to 15 slow, deliberate steps. At the end of these steps, you should stop and breathe for as long as you feel comfortable. Then turn around and do it all again.
When you walk, pay close attention to what your body does and how it does it. Think about lifting your leg, moving your foot forward, placing it on the ground, and transferring your weight to your foot as it connects with the surface below. The arms can be locked behind the back or at the sides, depending on what feels most comfortable. Taking the time to think so carefully and deliberately about something as simple as walking may not feel natural to you at first, so it may feel awkward or strange at first, but that’s okay. If you keep at it, these moments will start to feel less laborious and more natural.
Now, from a mental point of view: you should try to focus your mind on some sensations or movements that you normally don’t pay attention to, such as the way your head balances on your shoulders or the way your feet touch the ground . Look around you and notice the details of your surroundings. When you feel your mind wandering, try to refocus on the physical experience you are having as you purposefully move through the world.
Of course, there is no one-size-fits-all approach to meditation. What works for one may not work for another. And while setting a specific time to practice mindful walking can be helpful for some, Shimkus notes that it’s not always necessary.
Mindful Walking Stock Illustration
“We walk several times a day anyway,” he says. “The real work of mindful walking doesn’t necessarily involve taking time away from life, because we rarely have time in life. What we can do is notice that moment from when we’re sitting to when we’re standing, just take a few breaths there, “one to three, bringing the energy into the body, into the legs, and then staying in the body as we lift. Move and place when we’re making lunch for the kids or opening the front door, for example.”
He also shared a mindful walking technique he likes to use: walking in rhythm with your natural breathing. “It actually slows me down, which is a beautiful practice in itself.”
Mindful walking has several benefits for physical and mental health. According to Shimkus, mindful walking meditation can help people get to a place where they are happier, healthier, more connected to their bodies and their environment, and more compassionate. “When you activate the polyvagal system, it also helps you regulate against potential illnesses, which is especially important right now,” he explains.
According to Healthline, researchers have found evidence that mindful walking meditation can help reduce anxiety, improve digestion, and improve sleep quality.
The Mindful Walking Manual
The MyLife Meditation app offers a 5-minute mindful walking route, as well as longer meditations that can be useful for mindful walking exercises. Another option is Headspace, which offers a guided walking exercise to help you become aware of your body’s movements while practicing this form of meditation. The Calm app has a series of mindful walking meditations ranging from five minutes to 30 minutes, so you can practice mindfulness even if you’re short on time.
In addition to these apps, there are also several YouTube videos available from MyLife, Headspace, and The Mindful Movement to guide you through walking meditations.
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Thich Nhat Hanh’s Walking Meditation
Jamie Ballard (she/her) is a freelance writer and editor covering news, lifestyle and entertainment, including sex and relationships, television, movies, books, health, pets, food and drink, pop culture, shopping and personal finance. Attend regularly
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Mindful Walking Exercise
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Mindfulness is our ability to be aware of what is happening both within us and around us. It is a constant awareness of our body, feelings and thoughts.
In the Sutra on the Four Foundations of Mindfulness, the Buddha offers four levels of mindfulness practice: mindfulness of the body, emotions, mind, and mental objects. Practicing mindfulness at all levels can be the foundation of well-being and happiness.
When we don’t practice mindfulness, we suffer in our bodies, minds, and relationships. By practicing mindfulness, we become a peaceful refuge for ourselves and others. Once the seed of consciousness is planted in us, it can grow toward enlightenment, understanding, compassion, and change. The more we practice mindfulness, the stronger this seed grows.
Clarity comes from mindfulness. When we are aware, we can practice right thinking and right speech. With the energy of mindfulness we can always return to our true home, the present moment.
The Chinese character for mindfulness reveals its meaning. The top part of the character means “now” and the bottom part means “mind” or “heart.” The Vietnamese word for mindfulness, Chan niem, means being truly in the moment. Mindfulness helps us return to the here and now, to be aware of what is happening in the present moment and to connect with the wonders of life.
No one can succeed in the art of meditation without passing through the door of breathing. Mindfulness practice covers all areas and activities, including ordinary activities and each breath.