Walking Mindfully By Gregory Burdulis
Walking Mindfully is the yogi ’ s perfect transition from daily activity to sitting meditation . Walking practice is over 2,500 years old . The Buddha discussed and practiced it . It ’ s used today as a communal practice in the Zen tradition and an individual practice in the Theravada Buddhist tradition .
The purpose of walking meditation is to develop concentration and mindfulness , just like in sitting practices , except you are upright and moving . Walking practice bridges the stillness of sitting practices with the movement of daily life . Walking practice is also great to use if you are falling asleep in your sitting practice .
Below are 3 short descriptions of practices that can be done where you are comfortable , won ’ t be disturbed and have merely a 6-foot straightaway . For the richest sensations , do it barefoot . Inside or outside . Try taking small steps , so the heel of one foot barely clears the toes of the standing foot .
This walking isn ’ t about getting anywhere . There is no destination and it doesn ’ t matter how much distance you cover . Remember that once you didn ’ t know how to walk . It took all your might and great perseverance to learn . Muster that might and perseverance again to learn walking mindfully .
Walking while Noting This practice uses a silent mental process called “ Noting .” It functions to keep the mind tethered to the sensations in your feet instead of wandering through all time and space . As you lift your foot , say silently to yourself , “ Lifting .” As you move your foot forward through the air , say silently to yourself , “ Moving .” As you place your foot , say silently to yourself , “ Placing .” Repeat the same with the other foot . As you engage the language center of your brain you expand the number of brain areas involved with processing the simple act of walking . This increases both concentration and awareness .
Inhale Step , Exhale Step Inhale as you step forward with one foot and exhale as you step forward with the other foot . Breathe normally , or a little slower than usual . You will notice right away you need to slow down to be able to match your pace with your breath . Moving this slowly takes concentration . This is not about imagining how your feet look , or holding a mental picture in your mind . This is all about the sensations in your feet and coordinating the stepping with the breath . You will soon get the hang of it , and your mind will wander elsewhere . That ’ s the moment of magic . When you notice your attention is elsewhere you have options : 1 ) remain distracted , or 2 ) bring your attention back to your feet . For developing concentration , bring your attention back to your feet .
Inhale , Exhale Step This practice goes even slower . Inhale as you lift your foot . Exhale as you move it forward and place it . Do the same with the other foot . Now you are going very , very slowly , which helps to heighten your awareness . Pay attention as the foot goes soaring through the air . You may notice a wonderful , unusual and mysterious sensation . As you place your foot , you may notice you can ’ t predict which part of your foot , precisely will touch first . Allow yourself to be continually surprised . As you begin to pour weight into the foot , see if you can notice how the foot flattens and more of the sole touches when your full weight is on it . As you peel your heel off the floor for the next step , see if you can notice the sequential nature of the action of the lifting of the heel , ball and toes .
Bonus : As you go about your daily life and you are crossing the parking lot and you want to practice mindfulness but can ’ t slow way down , use the labels “ Left , Right , Left , Right …” to help keep your mind tuned to the present moment and the sensations of here and now . ■
34 INDIANA & YOGA MAGAZINE ISSUE 2