If you find yourself getting sleepy or restless during other forms of meditation, a walking meditation provides an opportunity to practice mindfulness while moving. Taking a walk can also help give you a boost of energy and alertness, like a little movement espresso shot.
Normally when you go on a walk, it’s very easy to let the mind wander in thought. In fact, one of the things I realized when I started trying to add more moments of mindfulness to my day, is that my walks were not as relaxing as I expected them to be.
People would recommend, “you should take a break, go for a walk.” And I’d do so, maybe even taking my dog with me, only to return feeling more stressed than when I had left. When I started practicing walking with awareness, I noticed how much I would let me mind wander on walks. I kept my eyes down at my feet or only a foot ahead of me on the ground, rarely looking up. I wasn’t always fully taking in my surroundings, and as a result, my mind went right to going over all the things I still had to do that day.
Walking with awareness, involves setting a task for your mind to do while on a walk. You can start by picking a color, your favorite color maybe, or perhaps a color you find calming to look at. On your walk, from the moment you take your first step out, to the moment you return, your mind’s job is to look for anything you can find of that color. You can look for this color anywhere: street signs, in flowers, the paint on a car, decorations on a porch, the shoes of someone else out on a walk.
If thoughts come up as you walk, allow them to fade into the background. If you find yourself distracted by your thoughts, or completely lost in thought, stop walking and label your mind’s action, “thinking, thinking, thinking.” Then try to re-establish your awareness of the present moment.
As you walk, try not to pass any judgement when you take note of how often your mind wanders to the past or think about the future. It’s okay for your mind to wander, in fact it’s normal for the mind to be elsewhere when you’re doing a task that might not normally require your full attention.
Some days it will be easy to keep your eyes up and visually take in your surroundings, while other days it will be more difficult. This mindfulness practice of walking with awareness becomes easier over time. Each day, each walk, brings it’s own challenges.
You might even find that after several walks you want more of a challenge. You can select a different color to focus on, or once you’ve gone through all the colors you can think of, you might select a shape or pattern to look for on your walk. You could look for lines in the sidewalk, in fences, on the curb, or the edges of your neighbor’s lawn. Or perhaps you look for circles and notice them in flowers, fire hydrants, or drain covers. Star shapes can be found in flowers and leaves, or the brightness of lights at night.
You can really make this practice your own, allowing each walking meditation to become it’s own unique scavenger hunt for the color or shape you’ve selected at that time.
Hopefully this mindfulness practice helps you connect to the present moment while walking. Giving your mind a task to do while on your next walk, makes it less likely you’ll feel pulled into thoughts of trying to fix the past or plan for the future, and instead you can enjoy living in the moment.
I’d love to hear how you like this walking meditation! Comment below with the colors or shapes you’ve found on your walks.