Walking is a simple activity.
In fact, it is so simple, that many don’t consider the action as it occurs. It becomes easy to rush past the present and toward the destination: we consider where are are going, what we have to do when we get there, or how much time we have to arrive.
Think for a moment about every stretch you walked over the past day, or even the past week–traveling alone, going to one place from another, taking your dog out to exercise, and so on. In any of these instances, did you ever make it a point to pare down your thoughts, quiet your mind, and find peace in your walking?
Mount Auburn is a tranquil spot for mindful walking.
You may find it difficult to even create a list of the walks you’ve taken, but you’re not alone. Cultivating sense of attention to your daily walks–whether you’d like to begin taking “mindful walks” or want to be more present in your everyday movements–is one way to bring your practice from the yoga studio to your daily life. Here are a few tips to make your next stroll a true exercise in mindful living:
Just as you focus on syncing your movement with your breath in yoga class, you can do the same when you walk. Noticing your breath is a good way to relax and sink into the present moment at any time–it’s a good start it you’re struggling to keep the thought chatter under control as you move. Try different techniques to find which works best for you!
So often, movement triggers our thoughts to speed up and the world around us to blur. Bring your surroundings back into focus on your next walk. If it’s a new area you find yourself in, you can relax your gaze and tap into a sense of appreciation. If you are taking a walk you’ve done many times, notice changes. That dogwood across the street might be bare one week and flowering the next. And isn’t that interesting–there’s a nest up by the gutter of that house, with three baby birds peeking out! Even in areas not dominated by nature, you may find that thrilling little details will surprise you.
Rather than focus on how fast the WALK sign is counting down, try slowing down and pause to take in your surroundings. The blinking red hand does not demand a sprint across the crosswalk! Instead, pause and notice how you feel. Even the stress of trying to make it through every crosswalk as quickly as possible eventually takes a toll.
Focus on the Journey.
Particularly rushing from commitment to commitment will create a kind of tunnel vision focused solely on the destination. If you are walking from one place to another, try to push aside the time and focus on your body and how you are feeling in the moment. What do your feet feel like as they hit the pavement? Does your back feel strong or weak in your stride? Does your head feel heavy? Use these spaces of time to get in touch with the parts of yourself have you been neglecting. You will eventually reach your destination, and when you do, you will feel prepared and relaxed.
If you are interested in mindful walking, join the Artemis Yoga community and the Friends of Mount Auburn this Sunday at historic and beautiful Mount Auburn cemetery, where yoga instructor Alysia Linsenmayer will be leading an exercise in mindful walking. Join us at the main gate at 2pm, and bring a friend–this event is free and open to the public! Let us know you are coming and register here.