Mindful Movement. . .
Not all sources of stress are bad for us. We need a certain amount of stress to propel us into action and thrive. Positive stressors motivate us to achieve our goals and provide the stimulation needed to live a full and meaningful life (Simmons & Nelson, 2001). This type of stress is sometimes called ‘eustress.’
However, negative sources of stress cause health problems, both mentally and physically, and in the long term can lead to the type of exhaustion and burnout that robs our life of meaning.Taking up a simple, short, and regular mindfulness meditation practice has been proven to relieve stress.
Today I wish to share my own personal favorite form of meditation – Walking Meditation, which I like to think of as mindful movement. Often when we are stressed, moving our bodies can be very beneficial, as it works off excess energy and antsy feelings.
Meditation is a practice of presence that you can bring alive in all settings and activities. The formal training in walking meditation can be particularly valuable for helping you to cultivate an awareness of your embodied experience in each moment, allowing you to bring your body, heart, and mind together as you move through life.
Begin by choosing a place – an indoor or outside walking path about 10–30 paces long. Start by standing still and sensing the weight of your body at your feet, feeling your muscles supporting and stabilizing you. Your hands can be in whatever position is most comfortable – resting easily at your sides, folded gently in front of you, or at your back.
In the stillness, remain relaxed and alert. As you begin walking, start at a slower pace than usual, paying particular attention to the sensations in your feet and legs: heaviness, lightness, pressure, tingling, energy, even pain if it’s present.
For the walking practice, this play of sensations – rather than the breath or another anchor – is often the home base for our attention. Be mindful of the sensations of lifting your feet and of placing them back down on the floor or earth. Sense each step fully as you walk in a relaxed and natural way to the end of your chosen path.
When you arrive, stop, and pause for a moment. Feel your whole body standing, allowing all your senses to awake, then slowly and mindfully – with intention – turn to face in the other direction. Before you begin walking, pause again to collect and center yourself. If it helps, you can even close your eyes during these standing pauses, often called ‘standing meditation.’
As you’re walking, it’s quite natural for your mind to wander. Whenever it does, you might mentally pause, perhaps noting inwardly the fact of thinking, or even where your mind went: planning, worrying, fantasizing, judging. Then, gently return your attention to the sensations of the next step.
No matter how long you’ve spent lost in thought, you can always arrive right here, bringing presence and care to the moment-to-moment sensations of walking. During the walking period you might alter your pace, seeking a speed that allows you to be most mindful of your experience. In this way, you’ll move back and forth on your pathway, discovering that you are not really going anywhere, but are arriving again and again in the aliveness that is right here.
Often when we are stressed, moving our bodies can be very beneficial, as it works off excess energy and antsy feelings.
Peace and Love, Jim