Movement as a vehicle for personal growth and awareness has been a long-standing practice in many traditions. Yoga, T'ai Chi, and Chi Gong are all meditative practices that use the body as a portal to experience a deeper sense of self by observing, feeling and guiding specific movements. You can transform walking into a meditative practice and learn to manage stress, relieve anxiety and deepen your sense of self.
Walking's innumerable health benefits have been well-researched and documented. From a reduction in heart disease, cancer and diabetes to increased mental cognition to an overall sense of well being, walking 4-5 times a week for 30-60 minutes improves the quality of your life. When you add conscious awareness and focus you have a recipe for an even more profound transformation.
One of the goals of meditating is to tame the mind's wanderings. In today's world there are so many distractions and so much to keep up with on a daily basis. Giving the mind time to rest is crucial for it to function optimally. Generally, the mind jumps from one subject to another, like a monkey jumping from branch to branch, losing its focus and often entering the dangerous territory of fear and negativity. Meditation brings the mind back to the here and now and to a singular, calming focus.
When you use walking as a meditative practice you will focus on listening to and directing the movements of your body. In the process, thoughts and emotions may also come into your awareness. Rather than allowing these triggers to kidnap your mind, you will choose to redirect your mind to your body. A walking meditation practice allows a quiet, focused mind to become an integral part of your life, whether you are walking through your office halls, walking in your neighborhood after dinner, or walking for fitness.
Here is a list of mind/body focuses for you to work with that will transform your walking into a meditative practice. Focus on them one at a time. Experiment and see which focuses work best for you.
- Start with a brief standing meditation. Stand with your feet hip width apart and balance your weight evenly on both feet. Take the time to feel the stability of the ground beneath you. Take a few deep breaths. Close your eyes and do a body scan of your whole body, starting at your feet. Scan up your legs to your knees. Bend them slightly to create softness and buoyancy. Continue up through your body and notice any soreness, tension or energy moving through your body. Make note of any sensations, thoughts or feelings and take the time to explore the sensations fully. You don't have to change anything, just "listen" and observe. Scan slowly all the way up your body to your face and head.
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