How often do you enjoy a country amble or a saunter along the beach? Have you ever tried walking mindfully and really noticing how you feel when you walk, or noticed the environment around you? When I think of mindful walking, I think of walking very slowly and paying attention to my breath and how my muscles feel in my body as I move through the movement of putting one step in front of the other, completely immersed in the art of “how I feel when I walk”. You can extend this awareness to feeling the ground beneath your feet, you might also notice the breeze on your skin and some sounds in the local vicinity.
If you wish to practice a more formal form of mindful walking which involves walking slowly with awareness. Then follow these steps below. After these steps, we shall look at simple ways to introduce mindful walking to younger family members.
- Start by becoming aware of how you are standing and aim to stand up straight with your back upright but not stiff.
- Ideally take your shoes off and feel your feet touching the ground and let your body weight distribute through your feet evenly.
- Before you start walking and to prevent your swinging arms from becoming a distraction, you can curl the thumb of your left hand into your palm and wrap your other fingers around it. Then place this “fist” on your abdomen just above your tummy button. Place your right hand over and around the left hand. You can place your right hand thumb in the space created by your left hand thumb and your index finger. You should feel well balanced. Try it and see if it works for you.
- To help you focus, drop your eyes slightly towards the ground just in front of you.
- Start walking. Feel your foot swing forward and feel your heel touch the ground, followed quickly the by the ball of your foot and finally your toes. Keep moving forward in this way, one foot at a time.
- Walk at a steady pace and ensure it is slightly slower than your normal walking pace. If you become distracted bring your awareness to each foot individually touching the ground and how that feels for you.
However, if you are going to introduce your children to mindful walking, you need to view your walk as an opportunity to walk a bit slower than normal and the chance to take note of everything going on around them – including how they feel. Children, especially young ones will not embrace a slow more formal form of mindful walking.
As parents I am sure you can identify with the overwhelm of spending quite a bit of your time dashing from one place to another dragging your kids along with you. Think about how often you collect the kids from school, race home quickly to fetch something, dash off to one of your children’s activities, dash home to quickly make dinner, race back to the venue to collect your child and possibly a second venue to collect your other child. Most of this might be done with a car, but you could also be walking or running!
This weekend, slow down and encourage your children to notice life around them. Take a child friendly mindful walk, ideally somewhere in or near nature like a park, forest, field or if you are lucky enough to live near the sea, walk on the beach.
If you can, take off your shoes and feel the ground beneath your feet. If you can walk along the beach notice the grains of sand. If you are walking on the grass, feel the grass between your toes. Notice the temperatures and textures of the ground beneath you. Extend your awareness and look at the texture of the ground, hear the sound of your footsteps as you walk and notice any smells in the air. Feel the temperature of the air around you on your skin. What do you see? Cats, dogs, leaves, trees, flowers…litter? In colder countries if you are walking with your shoes on, notice how your feet are feeling inside you shoes. Reflect on how your body feels as you walk. Do your muscles feel stiff, or is your body feeling fluid? Is your breathing deep or shallow?
To inspire children, you could introduce the game “I spy”. For example, I spy something orange and crispy to the touch….. autumn leaves. Doing this makes a mindful walk a bit more fun and interactive for younger children and teaches them to pay attention to the world around them… without them even realising that you are cultivating within them an interest in slowing down to become more mindful.
The benefits of mindful walking are many. By bringing more calm, clarity and connection into daily life, you will enjoy heightened awareness of yourself and life around you, better concentration (good for school and work) and enjoy an overall feeling of calm and peace, which is often missing in our lives. If you are keen to develop your own meditation practice, mindful walking can enhance your practice, increase your mindfulness reducing your anxiety and stress levels and lead to increased feelings of contentment and joy.
Contact me here to find out about developing your own meditation practice and learning how to facilitate mindfulness in children and teenagers.