The walking mindfulness is a part of Zen, Chan Buddhism, Korean Seon, and Vietnamese Thiền. There are two types of meditations – sitting meditation and walking meditation.
Almost all of us are aware of the concept of sitting meditation. Walking meditation is a complementary form of meditation to the sitting meditation. Walking meditation was meant as a meditative break from the long slots of sitting meditation. It improved the blood supply after sitting still for a long time.
I used to be completely unaware while walking. I used to be so much lost in the thoughts that once I was about to put my foot on a crab, as I walked back home with my family to my house. It was a dark rainy night and I was walking as usual, lost in my thoughts. In fact, I often used to walk while thinking. So walking was a side thing to do for me as I thought. My imagination was the way for me to get out of my uninteresting or sad state of affairs, as I used to perceive it then. Now, I believe that I must have wasted so many years just walking and thinking. I thought so much that I was left with neither interest nor energy to do anything else. It was an absolute waste of time. Now I feel that I could have saved so much of energy and time I only I could just be present. What I did was completely opposite to the walking mindfulness. It must be mildly true for many others, who start strolling as they think about something serious. It normally happens when you feel an urgent need to do something about your problems, but since you do not know what to do, you start walking. It gives your mind a false relief of doing something about the problem. Also the physical exertion takes away much of your stress by releasing the anti-stress or feel good hormone. Gradually, it might become a unproductive habit that is like a drug. It gives you a imaginary escape into an imaginary world of comfort, whereas the real problem remains unsolved.
Walking mindfulness is but walking meditation in other words.
Normally, when we are walking we are looking or thinking about something. At least, we look or think about the destination where we are going. Most of the time, a person in the frenzy to reach somewhere, will overlook the path. On reaching the desired place, if you ask him about the things that he saw on the path, he would hardly remember any. But in mindfulness meditation, there is awareness of the path, of the footsteps, flowers or greenery on the roadside. With an aware mind, when you pass through a path, you really are present with every step. You can even hear the crunching sound of the dry leaves as you put your foot on them. This is mindful walking.
Walking mindfulness can be practiced anywhere. It is great if you can practice in a place that you love. It can be a spot of natural beauty, or a temple or even your own house. Initially, if possible you can choose a place that you love. However, your house might be the most convenient place to start. The most helpful application of mindful walking can be in the office. In an office, normally the people are sitting in a sedentary position for a fairly long duration. Besides, it can help very effectively in managing the stress during office hours.
Walking meditation can be practiced while walking from one room to the other or on a mountaineering expedition.
Let’s look at the way walking mindfulness is experienced. Now, this is a personal experience. There are no steps or ritual for practicing mindfulness.
Be aware of the tension in different parts of your legs and your body as you get up or take the first step.
Be aware of the surrounding sounds and voices.
Be aware of your foot-steps and the pressure on the soles of the feet.
Be aware of chatter in your mind. No need to stop it, just be aware of it.
Let us share my personal experience of mindful walking. I could not get into the desired college for graduation and one day I was extremely miserable. I just walked up to the window of the corridor in my college during a break and looked out of it. For 10 sec as I walked towards the window, I could feel my feet touching the ground. I remember even the sound of the birds chirping, leaves rustling and normal hubbub of college extra clearly. And as I looked out of the window, it was the most beautiful sight. Suddenly, the leaves of the trees appeared extra bright green, the sky was a beautiful blue color and everything looked so bright and colorful. I realized that I have eyes. Realization is always different from information. I knew that I have eyes, just as I know that India is my country. However, this fact hit me deep inside that I have eyes. Realization is a living thing, which makes it so complete. It meant that I could see! It meant that I should be grateful that I can see when many others can’t. It meant that the world is so beautiful and colorful and I should be grateful to be living in it. It meant that I actually never saw anything, that my eyes were never connected to my soul. My eyes have been put to no better use than the optical hole of a camera.
Many people who have had NDE(Near Death Experiences) state that everything looks extra bright and vibrantly colored in heaven. I still remember that sight from the college window and I believe it when I hear that heaven and hell are here on earth itself. We just don’t have the right vision.
Mindful walking can bring amazing insights into our lives. Sometimes, even a small incident of mindfulness can change the entire outlook of an individual.
Apart from benefits in the spiritual and mental realm, mindful walking offers multiple other benefits. Mindful walking is a great exercise for dancers, acrobats, sports people as well as home-makers and office workers. It is good to support posture and gait improvement.
Mindful walking can prevent a lot of pedestrian accidents on the road. Combined with mindful driving, the accidents can be reduced to almost zero!
Hope this simple exercise benefits you and helps you to reach your final destination!
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