My usual practice, when I walk to work in the morning, is to plug myself in and listen to music or a podcast. But even then my focus is often distracted as I run through a to-do list for the day. Trying to determine which task to tackle first. This morning I decided to try to make my journey a practice of walking mediation.
Walking down the sidewalk I begin by feeling my feet, one by one, touch the snow-covered pavement. I begin to focus on the sounds made by each step. A gentle thunk as my heel touches down followed by the crunch of my sole on the snow. Thunk, crunch. Thunk, crunch. Early morning and the streets are dark. Illuminated by street lights. As I turn left on to a street that will take me to the river I hear the sound of a snowblower. Thunk, crunch. I see a dark figure in a cloud of snow moving a handheld machine that blows the snow into the street. Thirty steps, thunk, crunch and I walk past. A few more steps and I reach the walk that follows the river to the bridge I will cross.
Thunk, crunch. An older woman, mummified in winter gear, jogs past me. Cars, their bright lights shining in my eyes, pass a few feet away. The sound of a vehicle struggling to start. Thunk, crunch. Another 100 steps.
I reach the top of the walk way across the bridge. Another mummy. A man with a scarf wrapped across his face with only a small crack showing his eyes. On the river I can see the lights outlining a moored boat used for summer river tours.
Listening to and feeling each step I walk across the bridge. I hear steps from behind and a young woman, a fob attached to her backpack flashing green, yellow and red lights, passes me. For a second I have the urge to speed up. To engage in some strange competition. I return my focus to the sound of thunk, crunch. The feel of the ground.
Cars and buses pass by on the other side of a low concrete barrier. Their tires crunch on sand that has been spread to decrease the chance of slipping.
At the bottom of the bridge I curve to the left to follow a path which passed beneath the bridge. Under the bridge the path is free of snow. The sound of my steps becoming a slightly louder thunk without a crunch. Then the thunk, crunch returns as I come up from under the bridge.
My concentration moves away from my steps as I need to cross a street with busy traffic. Traffic that halts with the push of a button that triggers a walk light. Back on the sidewalk I find the thunk, crunch again as I walk beside a small park. Rabbit tracks run into the park. A cold breeze moves across my face.
I walk beside the park finally crossing into it to pass into darkness. The lights of the parking lot beside my workplace tell me that I am five minutes away from my destination. Accompanied by the sounds of each step I cross the parking lot to the door of my building.
Unlike my usual robotic walk this morning I arrive awake. Each sensation of my walk noted in the moment. Grounded, literally, in each step.