Taking A Mindfulist Hike

Mindful walking. Completed and signed by Prabhakara. Singapore artist.We left off in my last postwith a plan to work harder to stay “in the moment” for longer periods of time during my next planned walk. I had said that I needed to put more effort into “honing my skills of focus and concentration.”

In the time between that entry and this one, I did a little reading on the topic of mindful walking. Now, before we go any farther, it is important to note here that this is a great deal more difficult than it sounds; as much as I appreciate the way the experts describe this meditation technique… being careful not to discourage the beginner before they’ve even begun… being able to get the full benefit of mindful walking requires commitment and an understanding that there is no such thing as an overnight success.

I set out for my walk armed with the knowledge that I had gained by reading the article linked above, knowing that I needed to be focused in the moment and deliberate about what I was there to do: walk. I knew that I needed to concentrate on my breathing and on the sounds and the smell and what the air in my face felt like… and to think only about these things and no others.

Simple right? Not so fast!

Being the truest of true beginners, I kept catching myself hearing a bird and – in my mind’s eye -visualizing a bird house and thinking about how to build one… or imagining the parts required for such a project before telling myself – out loud – to stop and re-focus my attention on the matters at hand.

When I would stop to close my eyes and concentrate on my breathing (I exaggerate 5 inhales and 5 exhales-like deep cleansing breaths) and try to focus on feeling the breeze on my face and the warmth of the sun on it, I kept catching myself thinking back to the weather forecast I had heard earlier in the morning and how happy I was that Spring was finally here…and now we can start planning the garden in earnest and…

STOPIT!!

I could go on, but I think you understand the bigger problem for a newb such as myself; it’s really hard to train yourself to remain un-distracted and focused only on the moment and on each breath and each report from each of the senses that are coming into your brain in each of the moments you are trying to live in: it’s a lot of work to do nothing but be in the moment.

In no way do I have this mastered, but let me share what I did today that helped bring me back in to the moment each of the last few times I strayed before my walk was finished:

Heel, Arch, Ball, Toes:
Imagine the action going on below your ankles…visualize it…and – as you take the first of 4 steps – say out loud:heel, seeing your heel inside your shoe making contact with the ground.
On the 2nd or 4 steps, see your arch carrying tour weight inside your shoe as your weight shifts from the back of your leg to the front.
On the 3rd of 4 steps, visualize the ball of your foot making contact with the ground, inside your shoe and taking over the job of carrying all of your weight previously held by your heel.
Finally, see your toes…really try to see each of them as they move around inside your shoe trying to get a grip and propel you forward…as you complete this group of 4 steps.

Rinse & Repeat…as many times as you need to – on each foot – until you realize you aren’t thinking about gardens and bird house projects any more.

Tomorrow’s walk can’t come soon enough.

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