Walking is my meditation.
Walking is my convening with nature.
It is my nature boost.
And my mental rest.
It is eye- and ear-opening, every time.
My mind and soul are at ease
And thereby open to soak up the beauty inside this world.
Walking detaches me from any worries.
Those are my words. What spawned them, or when, escapes me. But the lines are laid out like poetry, in my handwriting, in a small travel journal without a dateline. I may have written this ode to walking meditation in Costa Rica, Italy, Turkey, Israel, or even from my backyard.
In fact, my first recollection of walking meditation was when I was in high school. Every time I walked the mile to or from my school — alone — I was in another world. No worries. At ease. Maybe those recollections are what fueled my preference for traveling alone, anywhere in the world. Wherever I go, I walk. And walk. And walk. When I lived in the superpopulated and congested Mexico City, sometimes I would hop on or off my bus and meander another hour or two to my destination. It was a feast for all my senses. I preferred the long walks to sitting or standing in a bus. Every time.
Many people imagine meditation as sitting on a cushion. Still. For long periods of time. With an empty mind.
I repeatedly share with my clients and students that I practice a wide variety of mindfulness practices. Daily. Including walking meditation. Although this form of meditation feels like it’s part of my DNA, I’ve been “coached” in how to meditate while walking several times. And, still, I learn more as I continue stepping one foot in front of the other.
I recently read “How to Walk” by Thich Nhat Hanh, the fourth in a How-To Mindfulness Essentials Series.
Everyone who can talk thinks they know how to walk. But just as people too often talk without thinking, people walk without thinking, too. That’s not meditation.
I may or may not have an empty mind when I start my walking meditation. Often, I concentrate on a mantra that I repeat silently, or out loud. Sometimes my eyes zoom in on all that surrounds me. Other times another one of my senses takes center stage. Regardless, I focus on the simple beauties in life. Perfection. The invisible air filling my nose, throat, chest, and belly. The wind or sun cooling or heating my skin. The miraculous flight of birds. The majestic trees that are worth a million dollars each to me. The baby blue sky and the ever-transforming shapes of the grey or white clouds.
I live in paradise. There are rarely any cars in motion. There is no noise pollution, just nature’s music. I feel lulled by the sounds of the roosters and even the occasional coyote. My soundscape that is on auto-replay in the background is the flowing of water over and between the rocks that wind behind my house and makes a loop around my neighbors’ land.
At night, stepping between the stone pathway of my self-made labyrinth, there are no lights except for the flickering of the fireflies, or the brilliance from a full moon.
From the cacophony and smog-filled streets of Mexico City to my little piece of peace and calm in Texas, I appreciate Mother Nature surrounding me. Whether I saunter through the forest, dig my toes into the sand, or walk among the crowds down a Metro platform, I am grateful that my body can transport me. I am appreciative that I have the time to walk mindfully rather than just running to get to a bus stop or a meeting.
Thich Nhat Hanh, in his book, talks about how people are constantly running from one place to another. Running is a bad habit, he says. We need to stop running after things and recognize that all we need is here. Right before us. Instead of running to or from the tangible or intangible, we need to just take one small step. With full intent and awareness. When we connect the body, mind, and soul, we are at home, according to the Buddhist master.
In Thich Nhat Hanh’s book, one page is dedicated to “caminar con la belleza” (walking with beauty). His description mirrors my lifelong practice. Enjoy nature, he says. The blue sky. Hills. A tree or a bird. Just stop and breathe. That’s exactly what I do. I tune in to the glories of Mother Nature all around me. And, the glories of humankind as expressed in my body, mind, and soul.
Another of Thich Nhat Hanh’s precious tips is to connect with Mother Earth during our mindful walking. He says do not close your eyes to the destruction humans have done to our planet. Yet with every footstep, honor the earth. Kiss the ground lovingly with your feet. Smile, be present, and transform your surroundings into paradise.
Consider spending a few days in my paradise where you can walk in the wilderness, watch your steps in my labyrinth, meditate in my treehouse, and converge with nature.