Practice Walking Mindfully
Mindful walking is one way to promote mindfulness skills without having to make time for formal practice. Try this simple exercise to promote mindful walking, inspired by Thich Nhat Hahn's book Peace Is Every Step: The Path of Mindfulness in Everyday Life (Bantam, 1992), which provides lots of examples of ways to incorporate mindfulness practice into activities you already engage in every day.
- First, set your intention to walk mindfully. Take a few deep breaths, and just acknowledge that during your walk you will try to be aware of your environment and your internal state (i.e., thoughts, feelings, sensations). There are no set rules for this walk, and it can be done in any location.
- As you begin to walk, first notice the sensation of your feet hitting the ground. Notice the process of moving your legs. What muscles tense or relax as you move? Notice where you are stepping, the quality of each step (i.e., are you stepping hard or lightly onto the ground), and the feel of the ground beneath your feet or shoes.
- Expand your awareness to notice your surroundings. As you walk, what do you see, smell, hear, taste, and feel? How does the air feel on your skin? What do you notice around you?
- Expand your awareness so that you remain aware of the sensation of walking and the external environment while you also become aware of your internal experiences, such as your thoughts and emotions. What thoughts cross your mind as you walk? What emotion or emotions are there right now? Are they intense, or mild? Are these internal experiences pulling you in or can you observe them with a little bit of distance? No need to judge these internal experiences as good or bad, practice just noticing them for what they are.
- As you complete your walk, congratulate yourself for your intention to practice mindful walking, no matter how many times your mind was pulled away from the walk, or how "well" you thought your practice went today. Just notice that the intention to be mindful is the key to practice, and pat yourself on the back.
- If at any point during your walk you notice your mind wandering to the past or the future, or being pulled away from the walk, just gently acknowledge that your mind has wandered and bring yourself back to the present moment and the walk. Remember that being pulled away and coming back is the key to mindfulness practice -- no one has perfect focus.