Find meditation hard? Here's why a walk could be what you need...
Meditation is everywhere - and with good reason. For the uninitiated, here’s a quick recap: Loving-kindness meditation, in which you focus on sharing good vibes and feelings of agape (love for everyone, purely because they’re human) has beenshown to dial up emotional intelligence and feelings of connectivity. Mindfulness – paying attention to the present moment – increases your ability tohold your chill in stressful situations andappears to be helpful as a part of treatment for people dealing with anxiety and depression.
All convincing evidence, sure, but here’s the rub: you haven’t really sat still since sometime in 2008; breaking your compulsion to grab your phone in idle moments seems more insurmountable than a trip to Everest base camp; and every room in your apartment is complete with the enchanting sound of next door making their dinner. Enter: walking meditation.
So what is walking meditation?
‘Walking meditation is walking in a conscious way, that involves using your senses,’ says Maggie Richards, a meditation teacher, and the founder of kid’s meditation programme,Smiley Minds.
‘It’s not about getting to your destination on autopilot, but doing it as a way to bring relaxation. If we approach mindfulness as a silent celebration of the senses, it becomes much easier to experience the real power it holds to transform an automatic activity – like strolling – into a healing joy.’
6 steps to starting your walking meditation practice
- Choose where you’re going to walk. While spending time in forests is a balm for any mind, Maggie says you can mindful walk in a city environment, too.
- Think about which of your senses is the most finely tuned. ‘Some of us are more visual, some are more sensitive to sound. That will help you to start. I’m walking right now, and I can notice how a tree looks, for example – its height, the green of the leaves, the way the light is falling,’ advises Maggie. More audio-focused? Observe noises around you, whether that’s cyclists whirring by, bluebirds chirping or, indeed, the sound of next door’s taco night commencing.
- Now, tune into those other senses. What can you smell and feel on your skin - the wind, the sun’s rays or the feeling of cotton from your t-shirt?. What can you see, hear and pick up on? There may be a slower, more melodic energy if you’re out in the country, while urban centres might present a more dizzy, rushing vibe.
- As you start walking, notice how these things are making you feel, even in subtle ways. Does looking up at a fir tree cause you to take a deeper out breath than normal?
- Become aware of your body as you walk. Feel the sensation of your heel, then toes, hitting the ground. And if you see something pretty, savour it by pausing, letting yourself sink into the ground while you spend a moment observing it.
- Keep walking and pausing for the duration. Which, for beginners, should be a 10 to 15 minute walk – keep it short while you get used to it. The more comfortable you become with your practice, the longer you can walk for.
If you’re a newbie and could do with some steer, then you can download a guided walking meditation from Happy Not Perfect here. Just stick your air pods in, lace up and follow the words.
by Claudia Canavan & Roisín Dervish-O’Kane, @allupinyourfeelings