Walking Meditation and the Energy of New Beginnings
The energy of new beginnings is in full swing. Life feels vibrant in the Berkshire Hills of Western Massachusetts, as we experience warm temperatures. People are out walking, walking, walking and smiling, smiling, smiling at each other.
No longer bundled up in layers, arms swing wide, and legs reach-and-land in long, rhythmic strides. Families walk together, with kids skipping ahead of parents, and dogs stopping to run their nose through the fresh, growing grass. Friends take a walk-and-talk, using hand-expressions for emphasis in their conversations, and loved ones walk arm-in-arm while taking in the view.
Being present to each moment – i.e., experiencing what is happening right here and now – happens instinctively for many, when the seasons change. We can’t help but explore with our eyes and ears the daily changes around us. We pause to notice when days get longer, birds are singing, and gardens bloom and flourish.
There is great benefit to enjoying the outdoors, and using nature’s beauty to bring our awareness into the present moment, where we are neither living in the past nor projecting into an imaginary future.
Walking meditation is a special opportunity to practice being alive in the here-and-now, and taking a break from the habit of traveling somewhere else in thought. This is a perfect way to let go of stress and tension in the mind, in the heart, and in the body.
How to begin a walking meditation:
First, as you walk, notice what’s around you. As thoughts come to mind, let them drift away. Bring your awareness back to this moment with these tips:
- SEE. Appreciate the colors, shapes, and movement of what holds your gaze.
- LISTEN. Hear birds calling, squirrels rustling, and leaves shimmering in the breeze.
- SMELL. Stop to appreciate the scent of flowers. Take fresh air in through the nose.
- FEEL. Bring your attention to how the arms and legs feel as they propel the body along its way, notice how it feels to wear a smile.
Use the senses for several moments to be aware of what’s happening around you right now, letting the body warm up and the mind begin to settle. After practicing mindfulness in this way, become more intentional about a walking meditation, with this practice:
- Slow down. Let your inhale and exhale be your guide for taking each step.
- Take a step with one foot and shift your weight forward onto that foot as you inhale. When the exhale happens, step forward with the other foot.
- Continue walking, and let each step happen based on each inhale and exhale.
As you walk, relax the muscles of the face. Wear a gentle smile. Let the gaze be soft. Slowly take one step after another, using the breath as your guide. To help keep your awareness on the present moment, bring your awareness again and again to each time the foot lands on the earth.
To make it easier for your awareness to remain lightly on the sensations of each step, say (silently to yourself) a simple word or phrase each time the foot touches the earth. Here are a few options for you to try, and see which you enjoy the most.
- Alternate “so” and “hum” from one step to the next. This mantra “so hum” simply means, “I am.”
- Alternate the words “ease” and “flow” with each step.
- Alternate the words “steady” and “sweet” with each step.
The words we say to ourselves matter a great deal to our mental, emotional, and physical health. So, as you walk, choose a mantra that expresses how you most want to feel. If you want to feel more spacious and free, then choose “spacious” and “free” for your words. If you want to feel loved, then you might choose the words “open” and “supported” – so you feel open to receive the support you are seeking. If you want to feel less anxious, any of the previous words can help, and you also could practice a longer mantra – one of my favorites from Thich Nhat Hanh is, “I have arrived” on the inhale, then “I am home” on the exhale.
Enjoy this walking meditation daily. Whether you walk indoors or outdoors, it’s a beautiful way to bring the body, mind, and heart into alignment. You’ll find this will reduce stress and increase happiness in support of physical health, mental clarity and focus, greater capacity for love and compassion, and so much more.
May today be a day when you smile, and brighten the day of someone who needs it more than you might ever know.