Planting My Feet: Mindful Walking

We all understand and appreciate the energy we receive from the sun and the vital role it plays in our health. But what about the energy we receive from the earth?

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Our bodies are designed for walking and evolved to support our hunter-gatherer ancestors traveling several miles a day in search of food and shelter.

But as technology and modern lifestyle invite us to become more sedentary, our health is suffering. It is more beneficial to incorporate movement throughout the day than to exercise for 30 minutes at the gym. Additionally, our connection to the earth allows us to feel secure and grounded while reducing stress.

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"Walk as if you are kissing the earth with your feet" - Thich Nhat Hanh

Mindfulness occurs when we bring our all of our attention and focus to the present moment. We can make any activity mindful, from brushing our teeth to doing dishes to making the bed. Read on to learn how to combine the benefits of daily movement and mindfulness together in walking meditation.

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MINDFUL WALKING

“It’s your road, and yours alone. Others may walk it with you, but no one can walk it for you.” – Rumi

You can practice walking mediation anywhere but it is often easier to calm our minds when we are outdoors in nature. So for optimal benefits, go outside to the park or the beach, kick off your shoes and connect to the earth!

  • Find a quiet place to walk, either outside or in. If inside, choose a hallway or a large room where you can walk back and forth.
  • Take a moment to stand still, close your eyes and bring your attention inward.

  • Notice the feeling of your feet rooting into the ground and observe all the subtle things happening in your body to keep you upright and balanced.

  • Observe your breathing without changing it and any other sensations that are present.

  • Gently open your eyes as you begin to walk slowly. Notice what is happening as you lift your foot, make contact with your heel and then transfer weight through your foot to the ball of your big toe to push off. You may exaggerate this movement for a few steps to observe the sensations and then return to a normal relaxed rhythm.

  • Notice the sensations in your feet, the feeling of the ground against your skin if you are barefoot or the sensation of your socks or shoes touching your skin.

  • As you walk, move your attention up your body. Notice the movement and space around your ankle joints as you step. Observe the contraction and release of your leg muscles and the movement in your knees.

  • Feel your hips and glutes as your legs and pelvis move together and feel your spine as it extends upwards.

  • Notice any sensation in your belly, your chest and shoulders. Feel the movements through your arms and hands.

  • Notice your neck as it supports the weight of your skull and play with the angle of your head, lifting or tucking your chin. Relax your jaw and allow your eyes to softly focus.

  • Continue walking, slowly and mindfully. Observe the rhythm of your breathing.

  • When your mind wanders, gently bring it back to observing the sensations in your body. 

  • Notice any feelings or emotions that arise without judging them. Notice any thoughts that arise without attaching to them.

  • Expand your awareness to any sounds around you and then return inward.

  • Bring your attention to your sense of smell.

  • Find a balance of inner and outer awareness, where you feel calm, quiet and content.

  • Keep this awareness as you continue to walk.

  • In the last few moments, return your full attention to the sensations in your body.

  • When you are ready to end your meditation, stand still once again. Consider how you might bring this awareness into the rest of your day.

Give children the opportunity to draw or share how they feel after mindful walking. Or you can pass around a breathing ball or talking stick and have everyone take a turn to share how they are feeling.

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"Each mindful breath, each mindful step, reminds us that we are alive on this beautiful planet. We don’t need anything else. It is wonderful enough just to be alive, to breathe in, and to make one step." - Thich Nhat Hanh on Walking Meditation