Episode #6 of the course 10 easy meditations to bring calm to your everyday life by John Robin
Welcome to Day 6 of the course!
Yesterday, we explored transcendental meditation. I hope you’ve been able to catch yourself in one of those moments of worry and stress and channel the power of your mantra instead. Practice makes perfect, and now that you’ve got five kinds of meditation to work with, there are plenty of opportunities.
You now have:
• idle moments, especially when you want to take out your phone and check it (practice directed awareness or open awareness)
• stressful moments or moments of worry (practice metta meditation or transcendental meditation)
• eating (practice eating meditation)
Today, we’re going to explore another fundamental pastime that can be yet another gateway to mindfulness meditation: walking.
Going for a Walk, a Way to Meditate
Thus far, we have focused mostly on passive meditations. Passive meditations are practiced through reflection while doing something such as sitting, standing, or laying down.
Active meditations, on the other hand, involve doing an activity, then using that activity as an object of directed awareness to cultivate mindfulness. Eating meditation, for example, is an active meditation, since you are using this activity as an opportunity to meditate.
The remainder of the course is going to focus more on active meditations, starting with the simplest of them all: walking.
Walking meditation involves using directed awareness toward the natural physiological effects of taking a walk to deepen mindfulness. It is easy to do every single day. You can do it on your coffee break, after work, or early in the morning if you prefer.
This is how you do it:
1. Take a walk. Make sure it’s long enough to feel like a walk. Ideally, find a route that covers a couple of blocks minimum.
2. This walk should not be brisk. It should not feel like exercise. It should be easy, refreshing, and calming, and you should feel like you could keep walking for an hour or more like this.
3. As you walk, simply pay attention to what is happening as you walk. What do you notice?
4. Especially pay attention to your thoughts and what happens as you retreat inward.
Stop reading and do this meditation now.
What was your experience? Did you notice how your thoughts became quite reflective? Did you feel alone with your thoughts? Did you notice how chaotic thoughts at the start became more orderly by the end?
There is a scientific reason that walking translates naturally to powerful aspects of mindful thinking. The simple act of strolling along for a few minutes causes every muscle system in our body to activate:
• Your legs muscles must flex to carry you forward and keep you upright.
• Your core muscles also flex to hold your body upright.
• Your arm muscles all flex in simple swaying motions to keep your balance.
This flexing demands more oxygen to every muscle cell, since muscles consume the most energy of all the cells in the body. More oxygen to muscles causes you to take in more oxygen in general. All your cells benefit, especially your brain cells! The outermost parts of your brain, the neocortex, are activated more, which sends you into a flurry of higher-level thinking.
You aren’t guaranteed to develop mindfulness just from walking. This is where intention comes in.
Follow the above exercise. Approaching your walk as an object of directed awareness (just like you did with eating in eating meditation) gives you an opportunity to notice more about your attention and what your thoughts are. The repetitive, hypnotic effect of walking without distraction leaves you no place to go but the higher world of higher thinking.
Over time, you’ll especially notice how all four of your passive meditations—metta, transcendental, open awareness, and directed awareness—pay off during walking meditation, since they all train your mind toward deeper calm, which predominates during the reflective activity of walking.
Walking meditation is an opportunity to develop mindfulness through a brief, effortless walk. You can easily do this every day by setting a time to go for a stroll. Added to your regiment of meditations thus far, this type of meditation utilizes the energizing side effects of walking to stimulate your neocortex into a cocoon of reflective thought.
Your homework is to make a 10-15-minute walk part of your daily regimen. Practice this kind of meditation when you walk. Eventually, it will become second nature, and you won’t even have to think of it as a meditation. This adds yet another layer of calm to reduce stress and channel Zen into your daily life.
Tomorrow, we are moving on to another important opportunity to meditate, around something we do every day: conversation!
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