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meditation

Fitness, Health

Walking meditation for folks who can’t sit still

Who needs meditation the most? Busy people. Those of us who are not naturally calm. People who have a lot on their mind.

We know that we can benefit from time to quiet our mind, but finding the space for quiet can be hard.

I’ve had both family and friends tell me that they can’t find time to meditate. They don’t feel that they have enough hours in the day or they aren’t the type of people who can sit still easily. So they ask how they can incorporate meditation into their lives if they can’t sit still.

No judgment if people aren’t ready or don’t want to sit in a traditional meditation posture. There are other ways to get the benefits of a meditative mindset even if you don’t want to sit in one spot.

Through my yoga studies and personal experience, I have learned that we can calm our mind even when we are moving. Whether we are flowing through yoga postures, hiking in the mountains or strolling our neighborhood, we can move mindfully and create head space.

The goal of meditation is not to clear your mind completely or to think about nothing, rather meditation is designed to help you become aware of your thoughts as they appear so you don’t become consumed by them. If your mind jumps all over the place from thought to unrelated thought, you are experiencing a phenomenon known as “monkey mind.” And you are not alone.

Many of us wrestle with thoughts that jump all over the place. Thoughts like, “I’m hungry. How far is it from San Francisco to Tokyo? I should Google that. I can’t forget to pick up the dry cleaning. I wonder what they are thinking about me. Do I have lettuce stuck in my teeth?” Our minds bounce all over the place, even when we are trying to focus on a project, a task or the present moment.

Meditation is an avenue that allows you to acknowledge your random thoughts and let them go.

We all can begin to tame our monkey mind simply by acknowledging our thoughts and emotions without letting them consume us. This consciousness can be attained through a walking meditation if you don’t have the time or inclination to literally sit with your thoughts.

How to Engage in a Walking Meditation

This is not your typical city walk. You want to reduce outside distractions as much as possible, including traffic, pot holes and other dangers. You will be turning your focus inward, so find a space with even trails or sidewalks that will allow you to do so. Also, leave the technology behind. A walking meditation is a time to be alone with your thoughts.

As you begin your walk, be mindful of the world around you. Notice the noises nearby. Are birds singing? Do you hear traffic?

Then, as you walk, tune in to sounds farther away. Can you make out specific sounds from the overall din of the soundscape?

Then turn the focus inward. Keeping your eyes gazed on the path ahead, become mindful of your breathing. What is the quality of your breath? Is it shallow? Are you breathing into your back? Just notice.

Then see if you can maintain a rhythm with the breath. Most of us will need to slow down our breathing. Focus on making the inhalation and exhalation approximately the same length. Keep this focus for a minute or two.

And all this time, you are still moving. You may notice that your walking pace has slowed. That is ok.

Breathe.

Now it is time to turn your focus to your thoughts.

Notice what thought bubbles up in your mind, acknowledge it, thank the thought, and let it go. Bring your awareness back to the breath.

Don’t become discouraged if your mind drifts away to another time and place. Find the breath and begin again.

Each time a random thought pops into your mind, notice it, thank it and let it go. Bring your focus back to the breath. See if you can stay in the present a little bit longer this time.

Keep walking, breathing, and noticing.

It’s a journey. Noticing our thought patterns and quieting our minds isn’t easy. But it’s worth it every step of the way.

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