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Regular meditation is the foundation for mind-body wellness and a consciousness-based approach to life. The daily practice can improve quality of sleep and relationship skills, enhance concentration, reduce stress, and provide a deeper connection to spirit.
However, daily meditation doesn’t have to mean sitting passively. Walking meditation, also known as mindful walking, is an active practice that requires you to be consciously aware and moving in the environment rather than sitting down with your eyes closed. It’s a simple and comfortable form of meditation that can be particularly valuable for newcomers or anyone who prefers a more active form of this practice.
Mindful walking can lead to a unique set of benefits compared with its seated counterpart. The practice brings you closer to nature as well as your body. Here are nine reasons to try mindful walking.
Walking meditation produces the opposite of the sense withdrawal, known as Pratyahara, that we experience during a seated meditation practice. In mindful walking, all of our senses are actively engaged in the experience of walking. We are deliberately being mindful of the earth beneath our feet, the air flowing in and out of our lungs, the sights, sounds, smells, and even tastes that we experience as we walk.
This practice helps us to feel more connected to the environment of which we are an inseparable part. This environmental connection also cultivates situational awareness, in which we put all of our available attention on our surroundings rather than mindlessly walking from place to place.
Taking a walk outdoors can break you out of a mental fog or a perpetual train of thought. This interruption may only be a change of scenery, which might be all you need to shift your awareness out of your conditioned mind and open you up to a more universal perspective.
Provided you’re outdoors, mindful walking is an excellent opportunity to commune with the natural world. Free from the internal dialogue of the ego, the natural world provides a seamless channel to the realm of spirit. Spending time in nature can be healing for body, mind, and soul. As you walk through forests, parks, mountain paths, or near bodies of water you immerse yourself in the primordial purity that is also at the core of your being.
Many of us are so alienated from our bodies that we don’t feel truly connected with our physical selves. Even worse, we may hold our bodies in contempt rather accepting ourselves and having a loving and intimate in-body experience.
Walking mindfully establishes a deeper connection between mind and body, helping you to embrace your body as it moves through space. The practice fosters an expanded awareness of how you carry yourself as you walk. Your posture, gait, and balance all tell a unique one-of-a-kind story in the way you physically express yourself as you walk. These details can give you valuable insight into how you can move with greater ease and comfort.
Slowing down is a natural byproduct of moving mindfully and consciously. When you focus on the countless details involved in taking each step with care and awareness, your movements become more deliberate, graceful, and measured. There’s no need to race to get anywhere. This moment, this step, this breath is all there is, and you embrace it in all its richness.
Enjoy the opportunity to not have to reach a destination. Mindful walking is about taking your time, all the time you need. Remember, it isn’t about how fast you go, but how deeply you can feel.
Seated meditation is practiced in a subdued, quiet surrounding. Mindful walking takes place in an environment filled with potential distractions. Nearby traffic, fellow walkers, weather, birds, insects or other animals all add to the regular stream of thoughts and bodily sensations fighting for your attention.
As each of these distractions come into your awareness, you repeatedly bring yourself back to the present moment and the practice of walking. The continual process of attention drifting away and coming back strengthens the mind’s ability to remain focused on the task at hand. With time and repetition, this exercise builds the mental muscles that make one-pointed focus a more regular experience.
In yoga philosophy, the refined control of attention and intention is known as Dharana. Through Dharana we learn how to harness the power of our awareness and desires to bring about transformation in life. By walking mindfully, we cultivate a deeper understanding of our intentions through conscious movement, one step at a time. Each walk begins with an intention; each footstep also begins with intention. And if we practice walking with attention and clarity of desire, we can more easily choose transformative intentions that bring the most fulfillment and happiness into our lives.
Walking meditation is a practice; it’s a skill that develops over time. The more you do it, the more it becomes a part of your being. This integration of mindfulness starts to spill over into other areas of your life, infusing them with deeper awareness.
And since walking is a basic activity that most of people engage in on a daily basis, you can practice any time you get up to take a walk, whether it’s for 30 seconds or 30 minutes. This regularity helps this mindfulness become a part of everything you do.
As you walk and become increasingly aware, the mind grows quieter. On occasion, that quiet becomes deeply profound. Your awareness goes beyond the walking, the breathing, and the passing scenery into the boundless field of pure awareness.
Such transcendent moments feel as if time is standing still as the walker, the process of walking, and the environment merges together into one. In this eternal present, there is no past or future, only the infinite now stretching out forever. Moving into this unbounded realm beyond thought, time, and space allows us to experience Atma Darshan, or a glimpse of our soul.