Mindful Walking: Taking It All In

I used to think mindful walking meant “watching” your step.  Like, the delicate art of dodging sneaky fixed-light poles, jumping over Grand Canyon size pot holes, avoiding embarrassing trips over large cracks in the sidewalk, and trying not to invade personal space bubbles of others walking around you, including getting tangled up with animal friends on long leashes.  Makes sense, right?  Walking in general, kind of requires some level of mindfulness.  How much more mindful should we be? 

Well…walking mindfully, is so much more than just watching your step and being aware of your surroundings (calm down secret Ninja).  Mindful walking is enjoying your surroundings, feeling the moment, and engaging in all your senses.  Although it sounds complicated, like rubbing your tummy and patting your head at the same time, I assure you, it’s actually very easy.

Walking Like A Zombie

We don’t have to actively think about moving our feet to walk, (left foot, right foot, left foot, right foot), we kind of just do it automatically.  Sometimes to the point, we can end up at the refrigerator without even realizing it, browsing mindlessly into an open refrigerator not even sure if we have a hungry tummy.  Our feet take us on all sorts of trips, but rarely do we remember any part of the trip.  Seriously, walking in the parking lot from your car to the grocery store; do you ever remember specifics to your surroundings?

When our bodies are in this normal automatic (zombie) mode, our Fight or Flight Response System is directing our senses, not us, mostly because we are too busy thinking about other things.  I know while I am walking to the grocery store from my car, the only thing on my mind is a shopping list.  This is why we rarely remember any specifics from point A to point B, such as how many people were in the parking lot, particular smells, the color of parked cars, a penny on the ground, or any trees or flowers in the parking lot; well, unless you parked next to a tree, then of course, you have to remember that tree.

My point is, we do see all of these things, but we rarely pay attention to any of it, unless it sparks an interest, like a unique rainbow colored car with unicorn horns or things that pose a danger to us, like a vehicle backing out of a parking space in front of us or the smell of gasoline.  We are semi-aware of our surroundings; but our Fight or Flight Response System is doing majority of the work when we don’t walk mindfully, because its mission is to keep us safe while our mind focuses on other things (like a shopping list).

Mindful Walking 101 

The next time you go for a walk, even a short trip to the refrigerator, try to practice mindful walking. Shape 3

To start, you have to get your feet moving in a desired direction, then once you are on your way, bring full-attention to your body then extend your senses outward to the world.  Taking in each moment of every step as you walk from point A to point B.  Bringing your full attention to one simple task, such as walking, is extremely calming and sometimes enlightening.

Focusing On The Breath

On longer walks, like a good exercise around the block, always start with your breath.  Focus on your breath by paying close attention to its sound; notice your chest moving in and out as your breathe.  Can you feel your muscles working?  Once you get a good, calm, breathing rhythm, move your attention to your feet.

Feet to Head Mental Scan

As you walk, you want to take notice to how your feet feel against the ground.  Are you a light stepper or a heavy stepper?  Are you walking fast or slow?  Try to notice the heel -toe movement in walking.  Can you feel any muscles working?

After your feet, pay full-attention to each body area, working your way up to your head.  Move upward from your feet to your thighs, then to your hips (do they sway side to side as your walk, mine do).  Then focus on your back, how is your posture as you walk?  Wiggle your arms and fingers, focus on the sensations there.  Finally, move up to your head where you will begin to extend your senses outward.

Using Senses To Discover A New World

When you engage in all your senses while walking, the world around you becomes more vivid, clearer, and sometimes even more beautiful.  That is because you begin to notice things you never noticed before.

Try to bring your full attention to each of your senses.

  • What do you smell?  Is it good or bad?  Does it spark any memories?
  • What do you see?  Look for flowers and trees.  Pay attention to building architecture.  Notice textures and colors.
  • What do you hear?  Birds chirping?  Dogs barking?  Kids screaming? Construction?  How does it make you feel?
  • Focus on taste.  Morning coffee? Toothpaste?  Unique unpleasant after-taste?  Is it slightly raining?  No shame in taking a taste of rain like a kid, enjoy it!
  • Focus on touch.  Touch everything, but be mindful of boundaries.  Touch flowers, dirt, the bricks of a house.  What does it feel like?  Take your shoes off while walking along a beach (avoid rocks).

The point is to activate all your senses while still being mindful of your surroundings to remain safe from danger.  You can enjoy your walk so much more, by taking in every moment of your journey.  This is truly the art of being mindful.

Gratitude Is The Result Of Being Mindful 

Focusing on your breath and doing a toe to head body scan brings your body to a state of relaxation.  However, engaging all your senses can bring a sense of gratitude.  As you focus on your senses, you begin to appreciate all the new discoveries.  Gratitude often leads to happiness and happiness is always a good thing.  🙂

What are your thoughts on mindful walking?

 

 

 

 

 

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Mindfulness: Everything Is Okay

A Different Perspective

At this very exact moment, you are okay!

Practicing mindfulness is a great way to calm down anxiety, fears, and worries.  When you pay full attention to the present moment, you realize that there is nothing to immediately fear or worry about.  We have this illusion that time is extremely fast in which is why we feel so connected to our past and our future.

The interesting part of practicing mindfulness, is realizing how long a second can be when you are fully focused on the moment.  Did you know there are things happening in the world that take less than a second to do?

  • An insect can flap its wings over a hundred times within 1 second.
  • Lighting can strike across the sky in less than 1 second.
  • The eye can blink several times within 1 second.
  • Speak one verbal word in less than 1 second (thus saying “One Mississippi” is supposedly equivalent to 1 second)
  • Supposedly, neuron cells fire several hundred times within 1 second.

Personally for me, 1 second is a long time, especially,  knowing that some things that I barely notice take place in less than a second.  It makes me wonder why I might be worried about something that may not happen until tomorrow, I mean that is 86,400 seconds away and that is if the thing that I am worried about will even happen at all.

When I focus on the present, time for me seems to slow down.  It makes yesterday feel like days ago and tomorrow a week from now.  Maybe that is the gap needed to disconnect ourselves from the feelings we have from yesterday and the feelings we have for tomorrow.

Focusing on today is good, but focusing on the very moment is better.  It reminds us that we are okay, regardless of any problems we are experiencing or going to experience (or not experience at all), we are okay at this very moment in time and it is this moment in time that matters the most.

I hope when you find yourself having a rough day, you go to bed at night knowing you are okay and tomorrow is a new day.

 

 

 

 

Zen for the Awkward Pupil

How do I become one with the Universe?” I once asked myself, during a time when I felt as if my brain was broken, and obviously, just after watching Kung Fu Panda.  Yeah, don’t judge me, everyone loves Jack Black!  But, seriously, so many “mystical Kung-Fuie” questions filled my brain, distracting my (once then) OCD brain from messing with me for awhile.  That was when I decided my OCD brain could use a little Zen; after all, it wouldn’t hurt.

As the awkward, can’t take anything serious, tiny person that I am, achieving Zen was a bit challenging…

When I think of Zen, I think of wedgie tight yoga pants, crystals, candles, a third eye, and achieving Nirvana like a Dragon Ball-Z character, glowing with massive energy, hair turning color, and surrounded by levitating furniture.

Image result for dragon ball z power. up

Apparently, I had high expectations for Zen.

Trial and Error with Zen 

The only way to achieve Zen, is to become Zen.  So, I squeezed into a pair of yoga pants, sat in the middle of my living room floor, closed my eyes, and waited…

Nothing.

Next, I burned some incenses, candles, and bought a few rocks (crystals).

Nothing.

Contacted friends, read a few books, downloaded a few apps, squeezed into some yoga pants (unnecessary by the way), saged my home, lit a candle, turned on some music, sat cross-legged in the middle of my living room, closed my eyes, took in a few deep breaths and waited….

Nirvana!

Well, at least I was close.  I doubt I reached the stage of Enlightenment, but I did eventually find my inner-peace and it was the beginning of a beautiful journey in overcoming my OCD brain.

Avoid The Awkwardness: Art Of Mindfulness 

To be honest, and I wish others would have told me this, you don’t have to try on yoga pants, buy a bunch of rocks, sage your house, burn exotic incenses, or meditate for hours to achieve Zen.  You just need to be yourself and simply practice a little Mindfulness.

What I love about the art of mindfulness is that there is no need for crystals, incenses, or candles, you can do it anywhere, anytime, with your eyes open, standing up, wearing your normal clothes, and nobody will know you are achieving Zen!

You can try it now:

  • Take in a few deep breaths.
  • Then, slowly, one at a time, focus on the following:
    • Breath: Bring your attention to your breath.  Notice your body moving with your breath and the sound your breath makes.
    • Sight: Bring your attention to the room around you, identify shapes and colors.
    • Sound: Bring your attention to sound, what can you hear?
    • Taste: Bring your attention to your mouth, what can you taste? Notice textures of your teeth, gums, roof of your mouth.
    • Touch: Bring your attention to your hands.  Notice the textures of your chair, keyboard, or maybe a pen you are holding.
    • Smell: Bring your attention to your nose.  What can you smell?  How does it make you feel?  Does it trigger any memories?  Good or bad?

Do you feel better?  If not, it’s okay, you didn’t do anything wrong.  It just takes practice and your full attention.

Practicing Mindfulness allows you to clear your mind, step back from chaos, live in the moment, and gain new perspectives.  For me, I use mindfulness to ground myself and RESET my brain when I begin to feel stressed out or overwhelmed.  Of course, I still like pretty rocks, exotic incenses, and practice a little yoga.

How do you achieve Zen?