Mindful Walking - how to get started
How do you stay in the present moment? Chaja van Boesschoten shares her experience of mindful walking and explains how you can cultivate your own practice at anytime and anywhere…
During my walk the open field with flowers invites me to just lie down, no matter what the other so-called urgent things are. Without any expectations, I walk into the field and lie down. All the sensations that run through me at that moment are incredible. The touch of hard soil, the softness and tickling of the high grass on my skin, the scent of flowers, the birds singing, that first taste of spring and when I open my eyes, a butterfly is about to land on my leg…
Being consciously present while walking, lying down, sitting or standing still in your environment is part of mindfulness. In this article we’ll explore mindful walking in particular. And remember, as you are reading this, feel your feet grounded, feel your breath and be only here with these words on the screen and your awareness.
Cast your memory back to when you were a baby: all the developmental stages that are needed to come into a vertical position to be able to walk. Walking upright is part of being a human and instead of walking on auto-pilot, become mindful of every new step you take.
What happens during mindful walking?
Mindfulness can be practiced anywhere and at any time. You can do this by tuning into any sensations and feelings you notice in that moment, without any judgements or interpretations. The awareness you’re nurturing during mindful walking is the same as when you’re sitting in a meditation pose or lying down. You bring the same intention and attention into your body, mind and breath. Your breath can guide your walk as you synchronise your inhalation and exhalation with every two or three steps for instance.
When you become mindful during your walk, it actually invites you to be fully embodied, so that awareness can permeate your whole body. It allows you to learn walking with ease.
During mindful walking you go away from all the automatic movements and thoughts related to them and you offer your senses a restorative delight. Your senses and mind open up to feeling your feet, hearing natural sounds, paying attention to colours and shapes in nature and to connect more to your breathing. With every inhale and exhale, you can repeat a short mantra to avoid your mind wandering off. More physically, your attention shifts to feeling and understanding what your muscles are doing when you walk, you become aware of heaviness and lightness, pressure, rigidity and flexibility in and of your body.
Your mindful walk
As your journey through the environment becomes less focused on the destination, take your time to feel every footstep and symbolically become aware of what that footprint leaves behind on the earth. Feel that you can walk with a smile on your face as you walk in a slow pace; allow the feeling of being at ease with yourself; feel joy and a sense of peace.
Being a beginner of mindful walking, it may help to start in nature and take your time to build it up. However, when you notice your walks have become more mindful, you can start practicing it elsewhere, even in the busy shopping streets. Simply because your mental presence is more important here than your physical presence. And remember the wonder of mindfulness, it can be practiced anywhere at any moment.
Mindful walking can be practiced with others as to offer support and solidarity. Be aware though that it is not a social activity, but a mindful practice.
Health benefits according to science
There are many studies that have proven both physical and mental benefits of mindful walking. This combination of using mindfulness during physical practices positively influences our psychological functioning, it gives cognitive improvement, stress relief and a decrease in symptoms of depression.
At the same time, it lowers for instance the risk of coronary heart disease, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes and hip fractures.
Also, walking in the fresh air gives a fresh breeze in your head bringing about answers to unresolved questions.
Be mindful the moment you walk away from this article, be aware of your first step, because every step in your life can be a mindful one, without sorrows and fear, but one with calmness, trust, full awareness and confidence.
Chaja van Boesschoten is a Hatha yoga teacher, international project manager and started recently as a digital writer. She has become so captivated by the knowledge of yoga science and the immense possibilities of the breath, that her life has become devoted to yoga. Chaja was born in The Netherlands, she is married to a Scottish man and has two sons who were born in two different countries. She now lives in Italy and finds it beautiful to use the knowledge of different languages and experiences to transmit yoga. Yoga is available to everyone, but she sees the importance to bring it to people who are possibly unaware of it, to people who live in socially vulnerable situations, to people suffering mentally (as a consequence of the pandemic e.g.) and to influencers.