I just came in from a one hour walk – good for me on so many levels! The obvious one is the physical of course. Mental, emotional, spiritual benefits kick in when I turn my walk into a meditation as well. I have hardly any rules. Actually, the only real rule I have is: no ear buds for music or phone calls. I carry my phone in case of emergency or, to call a family member when I am winding down and decide to stop in for a visit if possible.
So, how do you do walking meditation. There are as many methods as there are belief systems, ideas, people. This is what I have done on my last few walks.
I do a few simple yoga stretches and rotations before leaving home to connect with my breathing and to begin to move energy into my muscles and joints. As I start walking outside, I create a balancing breath that matches my stride, starting slowly with 4 counts on the inhale and 4 counts on the exhale. As my legs warm, I increase speed while keeping my stride rather short to burn calories and protect my knees. I stay with the balanced breath (4 in, 4 out) until I get bored with it!
Then, my focus turns to what I see around me. Some days my awareness goes to the mountains around Burbank and the sky above. I breathe them in and appreciate their magnificence, their beauty. I watch birds soar high above me. I especially like seeing hawks, messengers of the gods. Other days my awareness goes to trees, bushes, flowers, succulents, blooming bushes, etc. I send blessings to all that grows on the earth and provides these feasts for the eyes. I send blessings to the landscapers who create and care for them; I send blessings to the home and property owners who nourish the earth by getting it done. One day recently a couple of squirrels played just ahead of me so I slowed my pace and grew very quiet. One of them stopped at the base of a tall live oak and began to study me. I stopped just four feet from the squirrel and let the studying continue. The squirrel moved within about 2.5 feet of me. My breath became very slow and quiet and we just enjoyed the moment together, looking and seeing and feeling each other’s presence. It was too wonderful for words.
This morning as I enjoyed all that was around me, my legs drew my awareness. I let myself feel the actual movement of my muscles contracting, lengthening, releasing, softening. A calf muscle tightened and I stopped to stretch and lengthen, bringing awareness fully to my breath and guiding it into that tender spot in the thick of the muscle. Then I smiled as I felt a shift and when I released the tightness was gone. I treated the other calf muscle to the same attention and it responded into softness as well. A little later, the quads asked for attention so I paused again, breathing and stretching and nurturing my body.
As I slowed my pace into the cool down phase at the end of my walk, I had no real idea of how long I had been gone. I check the time before I leave and then not again until I go back in the house. As I cooled down I closed my meditation in gratitude for my life, my health, my sense of happiness in that moment. Nothing had entered my mind during my walk except what I was seeing, hearing, feeling. The essence of true meditation is being so fully in the present moment that there is no other awareness. Whether that moment is expanding into the silence of the void, being immersed in sensory sensations, allowing enlightened inspiration to flood the mind or being absorbed mindfully into the mantra I am meditating.
So, may I invite you today to play with this idea of what meditation is and let your ideas and beliefs about it expand into the essence of its true nature? May you find forms that fit you and allow you to enter into the sweetness of the moment, whether it is five minutes or an hour. May you experience the fullness of the moment and may you let each moment be enough.