Day 8 Meditation
We begin our second week with a walking meditation as our introduction to MINDFULNESS OF THE BODY. Walking meditation is a wonderful and literal step-by-step way to learn how to be mindful, and how to bring mindfulness into everyday activities. It becomes a model, a bridge, for being mindful in all the movements we make throughout the day. The essence of walking meditation is to bring mindfulness to an act that we normally do mechanically.
Instead of following your breath, as you did in many of your Week One meditations, today you’ll let your attention rest fully on the sensation of your feet and legs as you lift them, move them through space, and place them on the ground.
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If walking is a problem for you, you can do this meditation without actually walking. Instead, sit (or lie down if sitting isn’t an option for you) and focus your awareness on another part of
the body – moving your hand up and down, say – or on the sensations of wheeling if you’re in a wheelchair. When the instructions call for slow, deliberate, focused movements of the legs and foot, do the same with whatever part of the body you’re using.
Question & Answer
Q: I find walking practice much easier than sitting. But is walking “real” meditation?
A: We can practice meditation in four different postures: sitting, standing, walking, and lying down, and each one is equally “real,” a complete practice in itself. The obvious difference among them is energy. Meditating lying down will likely generate the least energy, while walking will produce the most. Sometimes people choose to do walking meditation instead of sitting when they’re feeling foggy or drowsy. Walking is also a good alternative to sitting when we feel restless and need to channel the extra energy coursing through our bodies. Walking won’t disperse that energy but will help direct it so that we experience more balance.
Welcome to week two of Real Happiness. In this section, we’re going to expand the stable, balanced attention we developed last week and apply it to body sensations. Whether sitting, standing, walking or lying down, mindfulness of physical sensations offers us the most concrete, easily accessible way of being present. Even if you are in a crowded busy environment, you can use awareness of something happening in your body as a touchstone to help you feel grounded and connected to the moment.
Walking meditation is an example of bringing mindfulness into activities of day to day life. The essence of walking meditation is to bring mindfulness to an act that we normally do mechanically. Very often, if we’re walking or going from place to place, we are on automatic pilot with our attention completely consumed by what we’ll say when we get there, and then what the other person will say then how we’ll respond. Or we miss the whole transition point going from here to there. So in this exercise, we try to bring our attention into the body to bring awareness to this activity of movement. We do this practice with our eyes open, and the awareness we bring to the body is a very light awareness so that it’s not a tight exclusive focus.
We can be in touch with the sensations in our bodies even as we are aware of what’s going on around us, what we’re seeing, what we’re hearing. We have this touchstone, this center of awareness in our body. You can do this practice wherever you are, just find a space to walk back and forth. You might enjoy going outside, but if you’re in a public space, it usually isn’t wise to slow down a lot, you can just walk in a normal pace.
Let’s begin. The first thing we usually say is bring your energy down. Feel your feet from your feet. Not as though who you were, your consciousness was up in your head behind your eyes. Somehow trying to look down to feel your feet. Simply walk. If you’re outside, walk in a normal pace. What you can feel is just the sensations of your feet touching the ground. Touch, touch, touch, touch. Or your body moving through space. These are actual sensations we’re feeling, that we’re looking toward. This is not an anatomical exercise to know that this muscle group’s doing this, and that muscle group’s doing that, but we’re paying attention to the actual sensations. Hardness, softness, tightness, relaxation. Whatever they might be. Again, you don’t need to name these sensations but feel them. Simply walk. Back and forth if you’re inside, or whatever length you’re walking if you’re outside. Feel your feet against the ground. Touch, touch, touch, touch. If your mind wanders, if you become lost in thought, you can just recognize that and begin again.
After some time, if you wish and it seems right, you may slow down somewhat. Feel the sensations of your leg going up, going down. Heaviness, lightness, pressure, hardness, softness. Without naming these sensations you can feel them. If you wish, you can use a quiet mental notation right at the beginning of each part of the movement. Lifting, placing, lifting, placing. But let your quiet attention simply feel, even as you’re aware of everything going on around you. It’s like a secret refuge, place of attention. An oasis of connection. It’s one step at a time.
Again, after some time if you wish, you can slow down even more. Not so much that you lose your balance, but enough so that you can feel really the exquisite sensations of movement. Lifting, moving, placing, shifting your weight. And then the next leg lifting, moving, placing, shifting.
If you notice your attention wandering, it’s perfectly all right. You recognize that, you let go, you bring your attention back. It’s very light attention, light awareness, to experiencing the sensations of each step. You can still hear what’s going on around you, you can see it, you can respond if you need to. Stepping off the curb, crossing the street, whatever it might be, but you have a touchstone for your awareness.
Then when you’re finished walking, see if you can bring this caring attention to sensations, this quality of awareness into your day.