Indiana & Yoga Magazine Winter 2017 Issue 2 - Page 36

MEDITATION Walking Mindfully By Gregory Burdulis Walking Mindfully is the yogi’s perfect transition from daily activity to sitting meditation. Walking practice is over 2,500 years old. The Buddha discussed and practiced it. It’s used today as a communal practice in the Zen tradition and an individual practice in the Theravada Buddhist tradition. The purpose of walking meditation is to develop concentration and mindfulness, just like in sitting practices, except you are upright and moving. Walking practice bridges the stillness of sitting practices with the movement of daily life. Walking practice is also great to use if you are falling asleep in your sitting practice. Below are 3 short descriptions of practices that can be done where you are comfortable, won’t be disturbed and have merely a 6-foot straightaway. For the richest sensations, do it barefoot. Inside or outside. Try taking small steps, so the heel of one foot barely clears the toes of the standing foot. This walking isn’t about getting anywhere. There is no destination and it doesn’t matter how much distance you cover. Remember that once you didn’t know how to walk. It took all your might and great perseverance to learn. Muster that might and perseverance again to learn walking mindfully. Walking while Noting This practice uses a silent mental process called “Noting.” It functions to keep the mind tethered to the sensations in your feet instead of wandering through all time and space. As you lift your foot, say silently to yourself, “Lifting.” As you move your foot forward through the air, say silently to yourself, “Moving.” As you place your foot, say silently to yourself, “Placing.” Repeat the same with the other foot. As you engage the language center of your brain you expand the number of brain areas involved with processing the simple act of walking. This increases both concentration and awareness. Inhale Step, Exhale Step Inhale as you step forward with one foot and exhale as you step forward with the other foot. Breathe normally, or a little slower than usual. You will notice right away you need to slow down to be able to match your pace with your breath. Moving this slowly takes concentration. This is not about imagining how your feet look, or holding a mental picture in your mind. This is all about the sensations in your feet and coordinating the stepping with the breath. You will soon get the hang of it, and your mind will wander elsewhere. That’s the moment of magic. When you notice your attention is elsewhere you have options: 1) remain distracted, or 2) bring your attention back to your feet. For developing concentration, bring your attention back to your feet. Inhale, Exhale Step This practice goes even slower. Inhale as you lift your foot. Exhale as you move it forward and place it. Do the same with the other foot. Now you are going very, very slowly, which helps to heighten your awareness. Pay attention as the foot goes soaring through the air. You may notice a wonderful, unusual and mysterious sensation. As you place your foot, you may notice you can’t predict which part of your foot, precisely will touch first. Allow yourself to be continually surprised. As you begin to pour weight into the foot, see if you can notice how the foot flattens and more of the sole touches when your full weight is on it. As you peel your heel off the floor for the next step, see if you can notice the sequential nature of the action of the lifting of the heel, ball and toes. Bonus: As you go about your daily life and you are crossing the parking lot and you want to practice mindfulness but can’t slow way down, use the labels “Left, Right, Left, Right…” to help keep your mind tuned to the present moment and the sensations of here and now. ■ 34 INDIANA & YOGA MAGAZINE ISSUE 2