When most of us think of meditation, the image that comes to mind is one of a seated figure, remaining motionless whilst clearing their mind and expanding the consciousness. And, in the majority of cases, this would be completely accurate. However, there is another form of meditation that doesn’t require you to be stationary or solitary. Known as Conscious Walking, this is meditation on the move.
Uniting Mind, Body and Soul
Movement is something that we are programmed to enjoy. There are few feelings quite so good as having completed a challenging run, tapping out a rhythm along with the radio or even just turning the pages of a book. Our lives are constantly in motion and it can allow is to get in tune with our bodies – which are an important aspect of meditation. It is one of the few spiritual practices that seek to unite mind, body and soul. However, far too often we take our abilities for granted and give them no more than a passing thought. Conscious Walking puts you back in touch with your basic motor skills, giving you a greater understanding of how your body works, what it needs and how you can improve upon its performance. However, it also employs the mind and spirit in such a way that you can find inner peace through undertaking even the simplest of tasks.
To begin with, you are best to start with familiar, day-to-day forms of movement, such as walking. The principles behind Conscious Walking can be applied to any repetitive movement, such as brushing your teeth, running, gardening and cooking. However, because walking is the one form of movement we do every day and without giving it any thought, it is probably the one that is best to use as a starting block for future exercises. The point of Conscious Walking is to bring the conscious mind into alignment with our physical movements; to establish a link between the mind and the body and to create an awareness of how and why we move as we do.
Walk the Walk
The best place to start is with your feet. In walking, we tend to forget about those appendages on the ends of our legs. Our feet do more than just propel us – they help us to balance and, even with shoes on, are sensitive enough to let us know when the terrain is untrustworthy or dangerous. Begin by walking very slowly and taking in all the sensations that come through your feet as you do so. Eventually and incrementally, you can expand that awareness upwards, through your legs, abdomen, arms, neck and head, soaking up all the information your body sends you as you walk.
Finally, you can repeat the exercise at normal walking pace, paying equal attention to what your body is doing, from the way your lungs are working to the swing of your arms. This helps to anchor the mind in the present and prevents it from wandering off. Just as, in traditional forms of meditation, counting the breath is used to prevent the mind from wandering off, Conscious Walking uses the rhythms and sensations of the body in motion to do just the same. As you walk, your mind will be clear of all the stresses and strains of daily life, allowing your subconscious mind to gain clarity and insight.
Right intention is an important part of many forms of meditation and we can bring it into Conscious Walking. In order to get the most from ourselves, both physically and spiritually, we must commit to what we are doing. Whether it’s walking the dog or brushing our hair, we must be fully present in our actions and make that task the one we will put our all into. This doesn’t mean doing everything at breakneck speed but, if you are applying make up, then intend to make it the best job you can. If you are doing the housework or washing the car, approach the task with the intention of doing the best job possible.
Our intent informs our thoughts and our thoughts inform our intents; going at something in a half-hearted fashion won’t get the job done properly and you won’t get the spiritual and emotional satisfaction that you deserve. Any motion performed with the right intention, from beginning to end, has the potential to give us insight and expand our awareness of the roles we play in our own lives and in the lives of those around us.
Right action is also a part of traditional meditation and Conscious Walking really highlights the potential behind that intent. In choosing to make the right actions, we not only honour ourselves, but we honour those we come into contact with. Just as a careless or angry word can have a harmful effect on ourselves and those around us, so too can a thoughtless gesture. The right actions are those that communicate your peaceful intent and your desire to be at one with all that surrounds you. This promotes a state of relaxation that, in turn, can have a calming effect on the mind and soul.
Buddhist meditation suggests that the trinity of mind, body and soul are interlinked and what affects one will, inevitably, have an effect on the others. By making sure that our actions are mindful, conscious and observed, we can encourage our minds to be present in everything that we do.
Right, Left, Right, Left…
In many ways, once you have got through the first, faltering steps, Conscious Walking can be a more convenient way to meditate than its traditional counterpart. Our 21st Century lives are busy ones and finding the time to sit quietly can be inconvenient and often just simply not possible. Conscious Walking allows you to bring your meditative processes into your daily tasks and get the best out of them as you do so. You should find that your attitude towards even the most difficult of tasks will change, giving you the impetus to fully invest yourself in everything you do. It’s a lot of information to absorb, but why not go for a gentle walk and think about it?