The last few days I have been walking again. Sometimes, when I am feeling anxious, yoga is not the first thing that I do. Sitting meditation can also feel problematic, especially if during the day. Both have a kind of mental baggage, that I find difficult. Often, I need to transition into meditation or practice. Walking is different.
After my yoga studio burned down, I though I would really "use" my yoga practice to help me get through. Although it is true that it helped, there were times when it did not. I spent weeks walking around North London, partially because we didn't have anywhere to be in between meetings, and partially because it was all I could do. Walk. Put one foot in front of the other.
My walks these days have been following this little formula:
- Just walk. Find a pace and a rhythm to walking, and walk to get somewhere.
- Try to walk on uneven terrain, or a hill (up or down). Pay attention to the feel of the feet on the ground as you walk, the way your feet navigate the terrain and its shifts. How does it feel to step on a rock, or a bit of grass. How does the foot react to mud?
- Integrate awareness of the feet with awareness of another body part. Shoulders, arms, bum, legs, abdomen, are all interesting.
- Find a place to pause. Decide a time and sit in that spot for that time. Just look or witness. See the plants, the animals, the life, the decay. Listen to the sounds. Let awareness move as it wants, but keep focused on the place you are sitting.
- Walk again. Get warm again.
- Find a tree. Say hello and introduce yourself to it. Touch the tree. Feel it. Connect with it. Feel it's tree-ness, and if possible some of its story. When you feel ready say goodbye and thank you.
- Walk towards home.
- At an ending moment, turn afound and retrace your steps mentally. Think about moments that stood out, things you noticed. Images or insights.
- Then finish your walk.
Why is walking good for moment of anxiety or overwhelm? This is what I have been noticing. In meditation, your attention is totally focused within. It can feel a little overwhelming. When you are walking, you have to balance your attention between 3 points of focus
- your own body (mostly it operates on its own, but it is something that could be consciously focused on).
- your body interacting with the space - looking at where you might put your feet, negotiating rocks and roots, or dips in the path, etc.
- the space around you, including your destination, other people as the enter your space, the environment, both near and far, etc.
Because of this 3 part attention, I notice that I get out of my own "tailspin" of thoughts. And as I walk, I can keep and hold attention in my body, like I do in yoga, because it is engaged in a task that is variable, and requires, at least a little attention.
I'll be leading 2 walks like this in my Winter Online Retreat. I'd love for you to join.