Mindful walking is an essential mindfulness practice. This month I had the pleasure of attending a silent, teacher-led retreat with Howard Cohn, senior teacher from Spirit Rock Meditation Center. I was reminded of my love for this practice. Inspired, I came and fulfilled a goal I've had for a while of creating a mindful walking path in my backyard.
You can do this practice anywhere! In a hallway. In a room. In a park. You just need to have the ability to take about 10 steps in front of you. Then you can simply turn around and retrace your steps. This practice is just as powerful a meditation as sitting meditation. It employs the same instructions - paying attention to your breathing (or other anchor) and returning your attention to that anchor over and over.
The instructions are simple:
Breathe through your nose or mouth.
Follow the sensations of breathing as the air flows down your throat into your chest and belly.
Do that for a few breaths in a standing position.
Take your first step, slowly. Noticing the sensations of walking: Feel the heel touching the ground. Feel the foot roll from the heel to the toes. Feel the ankle flex. Feel the muscles of the legs support the walking movement. Feel the hip flexing.
Take your next step, slowly.
Noticing all the movements of your body.
Choosing an anchor for your attention - either your breath or a sensation of walking.
Maintaining your concentration on your anchor.
As your mind wanders - as it will, all minds do - simply notice you're thinking of something else and bring your attention back to your anchor.
As you walk slowly back and forth on your path for as long as you need.
Do this for 10 minutes or whatever time period feels comfortable for you.