The Weekly Habit Practices are mini-challenges intended to help you fine-tune different aspects of your health and wellness. Offered between Challenges, these practices address fitness, nutrition, stress reduction, productivity, and personal connection — because health is about far more than food and the gym (and we could all use a little practice).
Experiment with Walking Meditation This Week
- For the next seven days, walk for at least a half mile each day with no particular destination in mind.
- You are not walking to anywhere. This is a walk for its own sake, and should be considered personal time.
- Use your walk for deep breathing, generating calm, and to tune in to your surroundings.
- If you live somewhere with poor weather, consider walking anyway — just be sure to dress for the conditions.
Why Is This Skill Important?
Most of us underestimate the power of this basic form of human locomotion. It is good for our body in many ways — it strengthens everything from our feet to our hearts.
But it is also excellent for our mind. Leisurely walking has been shown to reduce depressive symptoms in women. Walking regularly can help you fall asleep faster and stay asleep longer. And walking can even stabilize the symptoms of Alzheimer’s Disease.
But many of us approach walking as “exercise” — so what happens if for one week, you viewed it as a mode of meditation instead of transportation?
This week’s walking is simply about being in the world and observing it with fresh eyes. It’s not about burning calories or active recovery. It’s also not about emptying your mind, shutting off thoughts, or reaching some mythical state of bliss. Your focus will be to remain present to the moment, and just let your thoughts pass through without judgment.
As with any sort of meditation, it’s best not to get caught up in doing it “right,” but that doesn’t mean clearing your mind is easy. Here are some tips:
- Start with some deep breathing. Inhale for 3-5 seconds, then exhale for 3-5 seconds.
- Imagine a wave of relaxation starting at the top of your head, passing through each part of your body, until it works its way down to your feet. Observe how your walking changes.
- Be present to your feet. Observe the way your heel comes into contact with the ground, the way you roll across the middle of your foot, how your toes bend, and how your foot then travels through the air. Do this with each step.
- Look at the world around you, but try not to focus on any one thing. If there are too many distractions, let your gaze follow the edge of the sidewalk or drift to the horizon.
- Some people find it helpful to calmly count their steps.
If you find your mind has gone down a rabbit hole of thoughts, find something around you to bring you back to the present — notice a flower, a building, a piece of street art, or a beautiful tree.
You might discover something new about your neighborhood in the course of these daily walks, but even better — you might discover something about yourself.