The benefits of mindful walking
28 May 2019 | Katy Ratican
If you’re interested in mindfulness and meditation, there’s a good chance you’ll have heard about ‘mindful walking’. In recent years, there has seemingly been a rise in the number of people going for a mindful walk. But is it really worth it?
Well, we’re glad you asked. We think there’s a good deal of nonsense attached to the process of mindful walking, as if it is different from mindful sitting/eating/cooking/writing etc. If you’ve ever researched mindful walking, you’re sure to have found a myriad of complex techniques and practices.
Rather than deliver a mindful walk, we feel as though these techniques serve to overly complicate what is a wonderful opportunity to merge being and doing. As soon as you call a walk ‘mindful’ you run the risk of feeling self-conscious, somehow exaggerating your movement. That’s not mindful walking; that self-conscious walking… it’s painful to do and watch.
We like to say at beanddo when you are walking, just walk. That’s it. It’s the same with standing, sitting, driving the car, filling in a spreadsheet… just do it! In other words, effective walking meditation is first and foremost not defined as such. That’s the whole point. As soon as you say ‘I am now doing a mindful walk’, it’s not mindful. Meditation is a cognitive shift of perception. It’s that being aware of being aware thing, or better still noticing and paying attention, without wondering what your mind and body are doing, moment to moment. Remove labels, definitions and imagined outcomes and just go with the process, or as we sometimes say, go with the flow.
So when is walking just walking? Not ‘I am walking’, or worse, ‘I am mindfully walking’. To get technical for a moment, you are using walking as a meditation object. You are witnessing the action-moment arising in the body/mind field. You are the observer, without judgement or expectation… just walking.
When walking becomes effortless
Our meditation technique of choice is Open Monitoring or Open Field Awareness. So walking is an action we can employ to extend the depth and impact of the practice. When you get it, meditative walking is wonderful. You will find walking flows, it becomes effortless, a whole body/mind experience, tinged with joy, momentum and purpose. And it gets better because then everything that you see, everything that you experience also becomes sharper, more colourful and engaging. You see things as they really are. You wake up. With practice you begin to experience a space of profound calm and joy opening up between you and what you are doing.
In Manchester we have a fantastic Roman street called Deansgate. It’s long and straight. You can see right down to the other end. We often recommend walking along the length of this street as a lunchtime meditation. Fix your gaze on the furthest point you can see and then walk, practicing your open field awareness on walking. You will find you don’t bump into other people or step out into the road. In fact, you become super aware of everything and it feels as though your body and mind just seem to know what to do from one moment to another…the very definition of flow.
Now that really is mindful walking…
Our advice though is to have a sitting practice. Learn how to meditate. Before learning to walk in meditation, you need to sit in meditation first. A meditative mindset is required. You need to know how to do it. Then with practice you can discover how to use it everywhere, with everything you do. This is the merging of being and doing at the very heart of what we teach at beanddo.
If you too want to know how to really walk, get in touch with us today.