Upon hearing the word meditate, you may think of somebody sitting upright on a cushion or of hearing a song in a yoga class. You might not even picture yourself doing it. It may seem overwhelming or difficult to sit quietly and “silence” your brain, which is the exact opposite effect that meditation should have on you. If this is the case, you’re not alone. Luckily, there are ways to get out of this feeling. While these visions can definitely possible aspects of meditation for some people, it doesn’t have to be for you. There are many ways to participate in this soothing activity that does not even have to include the attempt to sit still for a long period of time. One of my favorite ways, for example, is to try walking meditation, a method I learned from a Buddhist professor I had in college. It’s a great thing to try if traditional meditation seems scary or has not worked for you in the past.
The premise is quite simple and it is exactly as it sounds, with no surprises built into it. Just follow these simple instructions and you will be well on your way to mental relaxation at your local park, neighborhood, or trail. Wherever you choose to try this out, make it a place where you can easily walk for a long period of time. The relatively flat ground is best for a walking meditation, so as to keep your breath even and your mind relaxed. If done in a public park, nobody will even be aware that you are meditating if you happen to bump into someone, as the practice is extremely subtle. Best of all, there is no cushion needed!
Start by taking some deep breaths to bring awareness to your body and your intention
Walk at a relaxed pace, try to keep the concept of walking for exercise out of your mind
Notice the sensations you feel while walking. What do you feel?
Rather than focusing on the beauty around you, bring your attention back to what is going on internally
Try dedicating at least 20 minutes to your walking meditation, and notice how walking is a full-body experience. While walking, you may notice certain feelings in your feet that are often overlooked, the important role your arms play, or the subtle swinging of your hips. The whole point of why you should try walking meditation is to take a step back from the day and bring our attention inward for a break from the hustle and bustle of our daily living. If this is something new to you, you may find it quite enjoyable! I personally prefer it to a sitting meditation because I actually find it easier to calm my mind through movement. It’s all about personal preference.
A slight variation of the traditional walking meditation described above is to focus less on what’s going on with your body and focus more on your senses. I am not sure if this is an official method of walking meditation, as it is one that I just began practicing myself, but I find it equally beneficial. Notice the smells and sounds around you, or the wind brushing against your skin and the sun beating down on you. Do you smell the trees or flowers around you? Do you hear the birds chirping or the soft hiss of the insects? These small joys of life are often overlooked and can provide some serious relaxation through just remembering that you are alive and that it is pretty awesome. Try it out and see how easy calming your mind really can be.