What I’ve found over the years of introducing my student’s to meditation is that a lot of people simply can’t sit still for a given length of time. This does not mean that you should give up on meditation as this exercise will show.
This week, try to do a walking meditation every day. If possible, make one of your walks somewhere beautiful in nature – in the mountains, on the beach, even in your local nursery (for want of a better connection with nature). For the rest of your walks, your general neighbourhood or the city around your work will do.
Ok, so firstly, you’re not going to close your eyes for this one, particularly for the city walks! The idea really is to bring awareness to every step that you take, to absorb everything around you without thinking about or judging it, to simply walk for the sake of walking and not to get somewhere or achieve something (this is not a fitness exercise!).
Start by bringing attention to your breath and try to walk in a rhythm that works with your breathing. Whenever your mind wanders, bring it back to the breath. Then, simply look around. Look at the sky – notice its colour and the presence or absence of clouds. Look at the houses and people that you pass or the trees, animals, birds. Notice the small details – the plant pushing through the sidewalk, the peeling paint, the interesting doorknob, the bee on the pot plant. Feel how your body feels as you move – which muscles are you using, how does the ground feel beneath your feet, what is the feeling of your arms swinging at your sides? Listen to the sounds around you. Try to listen to the stillness underneath the sounds, the silence out of which all sounds are born. Feel the air, the wind, the heat, the cold. Again, try not to think about, analyse or judge whatever you perceive. If you do, simply note your judgement and how often this comes up, and how spontaneously you resort back to thought. Then bring your awareness back to your breathing. Try also not to name the things around you, but simply to observe them.
If you really can’t get out this week (perhaps you’re snowed in, literally?!) then try applying the exercise to a walk around your own home. See if you can walk around your house/flat/apartment for 20 minutes without a thought or judgement about whatever you hear/see/feel. You might be surprised by the sounds, colours, smells (remember, we’re trying not to judge here!) and objects that you may not have previously noticed.
Take your time and enjoy the walk – life is in the small details.