Walking as meditation? If you’ve ever been told to go for a walk to clear your head, chances are you know very well this sort of thing falls under the category of “easier said than done.”
I tried. I’d put the littlest in a stroller and take off, my mind whizzing with the things that required my attention — activity schedules and dinner preparations and freelance work, or whether my older child’s Type 1 diabetes was being managed well enough. And of course, all of the other things parents juggle in between.
When I implemented walking meditation, though, I rarely missed a day.
I remember the moment I came back from a walk and thought to myself, “What route did I just take?” It’s like I was so preoccupied with the to-do lists in my head that I barely realized I was walking. There had been times before this day of “awakening” that all of the incomplete tasks on my mind actually prevented me from going for a stroll because I thought I had more important things to tend to at home.
But from that moment on, I vowed to shift my perspective and attempt to become more “in the moment” when I was outside. In fact, I needed to become more present in all of my daily activities. I also knew I had to start somewhere. Perhaps if I could become more mindful with one activity, it would be a domino effect for the rest.
How to Do a Walking Meditation
Like anything related to the mind and body, walking meditation is a practice. This was particularly evident in the beginning when I had trouble slowing my pace. Before then, I’d always focused on being fast not only for efficiency but to drop some pounds.
Something I realized that really surprised me is that the bonus of walking is the exercise, but one of the true best benefits of walking meditation is having those 15-20 minutes of enjoying my surroundings, rather than getting caught up in where I had to be next.
At first, I believe just being aware of my pace helped me with the transition from a she’s-being-chased-by-a-bull speed to a more wow-she’s-really-enjoying-herself saunter. I also found what kept me from getting a head clouded with thoughts was focusing on a particular sense: How many different bird calls could I hear? Were there leaves rustling? Could I smell the hot pavement, or perhaps fresh mud after a series of showers?
Another tactic was observing what sensations I was feeling in my body. Experts in meditation while walking tell us to actually feel one foot hitting the ground in repetitive motion, and sometimes that worked for me — but I also enjoyed feeling a slight breeze on my cheeks or just being overall appreciative that my limbs were willing and able to glide me through the walk. And just like traditional meditation, there are times when listening to my breath kept me centered. Personally, I think this works best when jogging or running, since the breath is naturally more noticeable with a swifter pace.
That’s the other thing: I actually started jogging and then running, which was never on my agenda before. Now, I will be completing a 5K in the near future.
Walking Meditation: A Ritual for Life
I’ve learned that there’s a rhythm to life that doesn’t have to be compiled by a series of tasks, events, and commitments. In fact, I’ve found the opposite to be true. Finding a rhythm came from literally slowing down. I liked how I felt not just in the moments outside with one foot in front of the other, but also the peacefulness that lingered beyond the trails and pavement.
In hindsight, I almost talked myself out of such an integral change. And to think, it not only took up far fewer minutes than I was spending on social media, but it helped me value my time overall.
Go for a walk and clear your head? More like, go for a walk and listen.
What do you hear?
This post was written by Erinne Magee, a freelance writer in Maine. Her work has been published by The Washington Post, Playboy, Boston Globe, Prevention Magazine, New York magazine, Men's Journal,Teen Vogue, and more.