Seated meditation is not everyone’s cup of tea. And that’s okay.
Just because you find seated meditations, especially seated meditations in silence, difficult doesn’t mean you’re bad at practicing mindfulness. Mindfulness can be found in many different activities (washing the dishes, combing your hair, coloring, petting your dog or cuddling with your cat, even going for a walk . And if by chance you do find seated meditations more enjoyable, it’s important to compliment periods of stillness with periods of activity and movement.
When we are seated and focusing on stillness, meditation can highlight the busy nature of our minds. The mind is always “moving,” always thinking, planning, fixing, remembering, telling ourselves stories to make sense of the world. Alternatively, meditating while moving can do just the opposite. A walking meditation can highlight where there is stillness even when the physical body is in motion.
By bringing mindfulness into my daily walk, I was able to integrate my meditation practice (which is normally rooted in stillness) with moments of movement. And even better, I was able to practice bringing the calm and receptive awareness I developed during my seated meditations, out into the real world off my mat. This is of course our ultimate goal in practicing mindfulness: being able to carry the wisdom we gain in our practice on the mat (or our metaphorical meditation cushion) out and into all other aspects of our
lives in order to effect positive change.
The following is just one example of a way to practice mindfulness during a walking meditation. You can try this the next time you take your dog on a walk (or even the next time you walk to the kitchen for a snack or walk down the hall). As always, please practice caution when walking and remain aware of your surroundings and traffic.
Find an open space where you can move around comfortably (inside or outside). If outside you can choose to follow a particular path or tail, or set a timer for how long you’d like to walk. Start by standing tall, feet a comfortable distance apart, and take note of how the body feels before beginning your walk. If you feel comfortable and it’s safe to do so, close your eyes and spend a few moments just standing. How is your posture? How is your breath? How is the mind? Take note of the sturdiness of your legs, the connection between your feet and the ground.
If the eyes were closed, gently open them, then begin to walk, paying close attention to your feet. Notice the moment your foot lifts from the ground and the moment it touches back down to connect with the earth. Keeping the eyes up, soften your gaze ahead and look towards the space ahead of you. As you slowly walk forward, keep your focus on each step, each part of the process of walking. Notice how the body and legs shift weight. Feel the transition that happens between each step. Become aware of those brief moments of pause between the lifting of one foot and the other foot staying strong to support the weight of your body. Notice the pressing down of the foot as it returns to the ground.
While walking, there are several questions you might consider:
- At what point does lifting the foot end, and placing the foot begin?
- As you focused more intently on the movement of the body, how did that change the way you moved?
- Are there moments of stillness within the activity of walking? What were they?
Try to remain present with each step until you reach the end of the path you picked out or the end of the timer you set.