Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Mindful Walking

Because today is such a beautiful March day in NY, I am offering a practice for you to do outside: mindful walking. You may already engage in this one as it is popular, and was recently popularized by the celebrated Buddhist teacher, Thich Nhat Hanh. He has offered mindful walking practices on his retreats and I have some friends who loved those experiences with him and continue their practice of mindful walking.

I was introduced to mindful walking about eight years ago in an indoor setting with a meditation group. We walked mindfully in a circle together a few times before our sitting meditation practice. We were instructed to walk very slowly, feeling each part of our foot touch down to the floor and keeping our bodies completely relaxed yet alert. We walked in silence. This felt very disciplined and Zen-like.

If you choose to do your mindful walking outside on a gorgeous day, you may not feel quite as disciplined in your movements and you may wish to walk faster than a snail's pace! Go ahead! That is fine.

Mindful walking requires keen awareness of your movements, feeling your feet as they touch the earth, being present in every step, feeling your breath synchronized to your movements and not allowing any carelessness into your walk. Be vividly aware of the way the air feels on your skin, the way the light reflects on the many surfaces around you. Notice the exact color of the sky. Pay close attention to the sounds in your environment and let the sounds fill your consciousness. Be alert for the presence of plants and wildlife. Mostly, allow this practice to connect you to a deep sense of gratitude for your body and for the Earth.

In many indigenous forms of spirituality, including the ancient Celtic traditions, the Earth is a living deity and is infused with Divine presence. Mindful walking upon the Earth is meant to be a sacred practice.

What makes a practice sacred or profane is not so much the practice itself, but the intention behind the practice. Use mindful walking to cultivate the sacred aspect of your physical life!

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