As summer fades into fall, it’s the perfect time to get outside and experience the calming effects of meditative walks. Unlike other types of outdoor meanderings, a meditative walk isn’t meant to be a power walk, a mindless stroll or a way to get from point A to point B. Rather, it’s an opportunity to center yourself and be present in the world for a little while. The best part is that it can be done in any type of location – urban, rural or anything in between. Follow our five tips below to get started.
Channel Your Inner Tourist
When I set out on a meditative walk, I find it helpful to pretend that I’m visiting a foreign country. This simple shift in perspective immediately changes my outlook. If I didn’t live here, what would catch my eye? Perhaps the height of the buildings or trees? The hats people are wearing? The types and number of restaurants? Imagining yourself as a tourist makes even the mundane seem suddenly somewhat extraordinary.
Use Your Senses
Keep your eyes and ears open as you walk. Look around. Listen. What sounds do you hear, and where are they coming from? What do you see both in front of you and further away? Notice the colors of plants and other foliage, as well as of buildings, cars, the sky, clouds and so on. Don’t neglect the other senses either. How does the sun or wind feel on your skin? What does the ground feel like beneath your feet? Breathe in deeply. What do you smell? Let your body be open to hearing, smelling, feeling, seeing and (when it makes sense) tasting the world around you.
Ditch the Earbuds
While we are all in favor of podcasts (hello, we produce them here at aSweatLife!), an intentional meditative walk is not the time to be tuning in. It’s going to be a whole lot easier to get in touch with your senses when one of them isn’t fully preoccupied with your playlist or podcast. That also means no phone calls and no texting. Stash the phone (and put it on silent while you’re at it!) with the earbuds and get in touch with how it felt before we were tethered to our devices at all time.
As someone who usually has 100,000 things going through her head at any one moment, “not thinking” is usually the toughest part of my meditative walks. But it’s also arguably the most important step. While I’ve taken plenty of walks to work out a thorny problem or brainstorm for an article, a meditative walk is a chance to give my whirring brain a bit of a break. Of course, you can’t stop thoughts from coming into your head. But instead of lingering on them, try to let them go. This technique definitely takes practice, so don’t beat yourself up if you can’t stop thinking about what to make for dinner or that presentation you have to give at work tomorrow. Just acknowledge the thought and gently bring your focus back to the moment at hand. Don’t forget, you can always use your senses or pretend to be a tourist to help re-center yourself.
Find Body Awareness
When we rush through our daily lives, we don’t always stop to think about our bodies moving through space and time. We may take it for granted that we’re even able to go on a meditative walk. So take this opportunity to be grateful to your body for the things it can do – starting with propelling you forward. Think closely about how your body feels as you walk. Do a body check from the soles of your feet to the top of your head. Are there any aches and pains? Where are you holding tension? How do your fingers and toes feel? Can you relax or shift your body to enhance comfort? How does it feel to be present in your body today, at this precise moment in time? Pause for a second to thank your body for the simple daily miracles it performs.