Before I get into the specifics, I want to state that as a Master Naturalist, there are times that I am fully engaged with the flora and fauna I encounter. That is part of what I love about being a Master Naturalist. During those times I may stop and sit and document (by nature journaling) what is going on around me. There are other times when I use walking as part of my creative thinking process. I am inside my head and notice only obvious sights or sounds around me. At other times walking is a part of my exercise routine and I walk fast and don’t notice much other than my heart rate.But as a spiritual naturalist, I feel I should devote a portion of my walking time to the more focused side of being mindful.
Mindful walking, also known as walking meditation, is a mindfulness practice that involves bringing focused attention to the physical act of walking and the sensations it creates in your body. The goal is to develop a heightened awareness of the present moment by fully experiencing and appreciating the process of walking, without judgment or distraction.
The Elements of Mindful WalkingAccording to Hugh O’Donovan in his book on Mindful Walking, the key elements of mindful walking are:
Mindful walking can be practiced in various settings, such as nature trails, parks, or even neighborhoods. The key is to remain present and aware of your body, breath, and surroundings, regardless of the external environment.
O’Donovan also explores the psychological advantages of combining mindfulness with walking. Some benefits of mindful walking include:
– Reduced stress and anxiety
– Improved mental focus and clarity
– Enhanced emotional well-being
– Increased physical activity and associated health benefits
– A deeper sense of connection with yourself and the world around you
Mindful walking is an accessible and versatile mindfulness practice that can be easily integrated into your daily walking routine, providing an opportunity to cultivate presence and self-awareness.
Practicing a Walking MeditationOne popular walking meditation technique is the “Four-Part Walking Meditation.” This technique focuses on synchronizing your breath with your steps, allowing you to cultivate mindfulness and awareness of the present moment.
This meditation is simple enough that I can remember it while I am walking. I make it a practice to leave my phone at home when I am going to do a mindful walk. (I do have an Apple Watch for emergencies. I put it in silent mode.) I am amazed at how quiet it is in nature sometimes. Those are the times that I don’t have a lot of distractions and I can best engage with how my body feels.
Just as with any mindfulness practice, I know that my mindful walks will always be a work in progress, but I am happy to add movement to my regular mindfulness routine. I’ve noticed that I am more in tune with how my body feels during those walks, but I also return home feeling more a part of the natural world around me, rather than just an observer.