The most common form of mindful movement meditation is the walking meditation; John Kabat Zinn popularized this traditional Buddhist meditation with his Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) program.
The practice is very simple; you basically just walk. The original intention of this practice was to break up long periods of seated meditation. The monks would walk clockwise around a room with one hand fisted resting in an open hand (the mudra of absoluteness). Each step is taken after a full breath, long steady breaths create a slow walking pace. Short sharp breaths, such as the breath of fire (meant for cleansing), create a faster pace or a light jog.
For simplicity the common practice is to inhale take 1 step, exhale take 1 step and continue in this way for 10-15 minutes.
To Practice Mindful Walking
Find a location that allows you to take 10-15 steps in one direction without obstacles.
Begin walking counting your steps (10-15), pause for as long as you like taking several deep breaths.
When ready turn and walk back. Pause, breathe and turn.
Continue in this way for your chosen length of time (generally 15-30 minutes)
While walking try to notice the sensations of the movement. Notice the lifting of one foot, feel the weight shift to the standing leg. Feel the ground as you place the foot down and transfer the weight. Feel the swing of the back leg moving forward.
Allowing the mind to wander from toes to hip. With each step feeling fully into the bodily sensations. When you pause to breathe at the end of a cycle, feel the body.
Do your feet tingle?
Are your knees warm?
Is there tension in your calves, thighs, hips?
No judgement, just notice, playing with curiosity.
You can gently clasp your hands behind or in front of you, or you can let them hang at your sides. Keep it natural and light without too much thought. Your pace should be slow and steady, but natural. As you progress you can try short jogs.
Movement meditation is a wonderful way to get to know your body; how it moves through space, how your system reacts to changes in pace, etcetera. Mindfulness based movement is also a great way to release physical tension caused by stress and anxiety.
When anxiety is heightened sitting still can be a nightmare! I am an introvert; I have been known to have extreme social anxiety. MBSR practitioner training has helped in so many ways but that doesn’t mean I don’t still experience anxiety on occasion. When I do have extreme anxiety or panic attacks I need to move; as is the case for many people. However, the simple act of mindful walking can be sensory overload, much too intense to do what it’s suppose to do; calm the senses.
By combining a couple mindfulness techniques, I use what I can environment integration mindful walking. This came about as a result of a family emergency. When my daughter was very young, she experienced a trauma that left her with PTSD which later turned into generalized anxiety. To help her get settled into her environment we did a form of walking meditation to help connect the senses to her surroundings. After only 2 sessions she began asking me to go for a mindful walk with her (she was only 6 at the time).
Over the years I have taught this variation to people that experience anxiety related to their surroundings. As with the traditional form of walking meditation it is very simple; the biggest difference is we concentrate on one sense at a time. Here’s a link to the YouTube guided meditation or listen to the audio version on Spotify.
To Practice Environment Integration Mindful Walking
Take a few deep breaths and begin walking. Concentrate on sound. Listen to your environment. Label each sound that comes to you. When no new sounds arise take a few deep breaths and concentrate on sight. Look around. Label everything that you see. After a few minutes switch to smell. Breath, walk smell. Label each scent that arises. Notice if the smells match the environment. When nothing new arises take a few deep breaths and concentrate on touch. Feel your clothes as you walk, touch items in your environment. Feel your feet against the ground. Label and move on. Once completed let all senses come together. Continue walking for as long as you like.
This practice is a great way to integrate with your surroundings. The more familiar we are in a particular environment the more comfortable we are thus reducing the amount of anxiety experienced.
Have fun with this practice, keep it light. As with any mindfulness exercise if you feel overwhelmed; come back to the experience of the breath. Let the breath be your anchor.
Love & Hugs