What is it? How to do it? And most importantly…Why do it?
Researched and compiled by our colleague on the hills Susan Barrett
Before turning attention to Mindful Walking, let’s consider Mindfulness itself. What is it?
Simply put, it’s about the cultivation of awareness. And what are we cultivating awareness of, you might ask? Basically, whatever it is we happen to be doing at any one time. In other words, if we’re eating, we bring awareness to the act of eating…..noticing the tastes and aromas, the chewing and swallowing etc. This may sound like stating the obvious but think about the last cup of tea or coffee you drank….how much attention did you actually pay to that cuppa? Chances are, if your mind is anything like mine, you were thinking about something else whilst drinking, you may have been planning the rest of your day or remembering a recent conversation, for example.
Although we may delude ourselves that we are aware of the present moment, all too often, we are preoccupied and distracted.
When we practice mindfulness, which is a form of meditation, we offer our minds something to pay attention to, otherwise the busy mind will wander all over the place. We choose something that is available to us in the present moment, such as our breath, our feet on the floor, the sounds around us.
Mindful Walking simply put, is the practice of paying attention to the body in motion. To support us with our busy minds, we can invite our awareness to notice the movements the body makes while walking….the lifting and placing of the feet, the action of the legs propelling us forward. Our awareness can be directed inwards in this way, but mindful walking also offers us the possibility of opening our awareness to what is around us while we are walking. The sights and sounds in our environment, the aromas of flowers or plants….all of these can also become objects for our attention.
Mindful walking has been practiced in many spiritual traditions for centuries. People often associate it with walking that is almost painfully slow. We don’t have to walk very slowly to be mindful but if you think about it, slowing down the pace allows us to notice more of the many elements involved in walking and this can really support our concentration and focus. Mindful walking can offer us headspace, the chance to unwind from the stresses and strains of life, an opportunity to re-set.
As we all know, our club is often jokingly called the “Dingle Hill Talking Club” and the sociable aspect of our regular walks is of huge value to us all and not something we would want to change. But perhaps when out on the hills, we might occasionally pause our chatter more frequently to take in the incredible sights around us or invite our attention into the motion of the body with no other intention than to see what it feels like?