“The mind can go in a thousand directions, but on this beautiful path, I walk in peace.”Thich Nhat Hanh
When walking, you are activating your five senses, becoming consciously aware of your experiences in the moment. You are connecting with nature, each step along the path, is a step to discovery. You become aware of your body, and the environment you are walking in. Mindful walking is a very important part of my daily self-care and also a real treasure trove of curiosities to collect as inspiration for future creative work. Most of my stitch and painting has evolved from some sort of experience in nature, through activating my senses and feeling the connection to the land.
Mindful walking can be anywhere, any time. It’s the same ethos whether in your garden, walking to the local shop or in a busy place, or beautiful park, beach or woodland. There is no time limit, its about what is comfortable for you, if your mind wanders, gentling bring it back to the present moment and what you are sensing. Be aware of your surroundings, stay safe and walk with someone you trust if you are unsure.
Body awareness – the foundation of mindfulness.
Having body awareness is a key part of mindful walking. It enables us to focus on experiencing and sensing our body in the environment, rather than thinking about it. We allow the experiences and senses to come and go, without judgement. Notice, as you walk, the sensations experienced in your body. Then make a conscious decision to relax those sensations, and let them go. Gradually, your body will start to relax, feel calmer and more refreshed. How often do we walk somewhere paying little attention to our bodies (unless we are in pain) or the sensation of our body when walking?
Start by standing still, drawing your senses to the feeling the ground beneath your feet, this helps to ground in the moment. Take a moment to check-in with how you are feeling, letting these thoughts come and go. Notice your breath. Start to walk, paying attention to how fast or slow you are walking, whether you stop for a moment, or choose to walk on uneven ground or stay on a path. Do you step in puddles or walk around them? What is your breath like now you are walking, is it in-sync with your footsteps? Noticing what you do with your arms, are they swinging at your sides as you walk, or are they planted firmly in your coat pockets? remember there is no right or wrong, wherever is comfortable is key. Is your back straight, shoulders back or are you hunched forward? Is your chin close to your chest or are you walking with your head up? Over time you may have noticed that your posture has improved. You may be used to walk quite hunched over, chin to chest, looking more at the ground, with your hands in your coat pockets, notice how this had a huge impact on your overall feeling. Once you start to pay attention to the sensations in your body, and how much more air you are breathing in when you adjusted your posture, you will feel so much better overall. Yes there are times when you may slip back into old styles of walking, bring your awareness back into the present.
Environmental awareness – engaging the senses
Alongside noticing your body as you walk, look, sense your environment, pay attention to what you are experiencing. What can you see around you? what can you smell? what is the weather like? is the wind blowing across your face or is it raining? what can you hear? is the wind rustling the leaves in the trees? are there birds, planes, traffic? people walking passed? When in woodland, pick up a stick, stroke the bark of a tree, pick up a leaf, or a stone, a pine cone, really taking in the detail, feeling the texture. Take photo’s of ‘treasures’ that you feel a real connection to. Fill your pockets with pine cones, different coloured leaves and unusual stones….taking a bit of mindfulness home with you. The key to environmental awareness is really taking in the environment in the moment, engaging with it, really noticing the finer details and experiencing in a visceral way.
At the end of each walk, bring your attention back to the present moment, feet firmly on the ground. Take a moment, pausing to acknowledge the end of your walk. Then close the mindful walking session by choosing one thing that you have experienced to take into the rest of the day (usually something like a stone in your pocket).