Walking Mindfully

TML hiking
Me at Bear Mountain, NY

Before I discovered mindfulness, I described myself as an “avid hiker.”  I have always been keenly aware of the restorative power of nature, and “hiking” also served as exercise. Win, win!  I have gone so far as to say that a beautiful nature trail on a sunny day (particularly in autumn) was like my “church.”  It never made sense to me that people could feel closer to God in a man-made structure.

What I didn’t realize though is that during my “hikes,” the way I would take them, I was actually performing a type of mindful meditation, “mindful walking.”  The difference is this.  A hike is quite simply a lengthy walk in a natural environment.  Mindful walking requires a far different level of attention.

TML mountain hike
Long Lake, NY

The process for me is as follows…  I do a sort of body scan as I move.  I begin by focusing attention on my footfalls.  I feel the strain in my legs as I navigate up or downhill and envision the blood pumping through my veins.  I focus on my breathing, in through the nose and out through the mouth and imagine the oxygen nourishing every cell.  Most importantly, I focus on my senses in the outdoors.  I try to take in every sound, from birds, to the wind through the trees.  I focus not only on the path in front of me, but I extend my focus to the far reaches of my peripheral vision.  I take in the smells of leaves, grass, and flowers.  

Focusing on the experience of walking in this way really brings me into the present moment.  I let go of any worry or anxiety, and if such emotions intrude, I simply acknowledge them and go back to focusing on my senses.  Whenever I finish a great mindful walk, I feel both calm and invigorated due to the bonus rush of endorphin that comes with exercise.  

For people new to meditation and mindfulness, a mindful walk is a great way to get started. Just remember to silence your phone!

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