If you’re drawn to meditation for its many health and wellness benefits, but struggle to sit quietly for long periods, try this on-the-go exercise from Andy Puddicombe, cofounder of the app Headspace. The key to making it work, he says, is familiarizing yourself with the present moment when you’re on the go. “When you’re walking, it’s common for the legs to be moving but for the mind to be elsewhere.” What you want here is a relaxed, focused mind that helps you connect to the “actual experience of walking.” Try this meditative walk anywhere — strolling in your neighborhood or on a track or nature path — and go at whatever pace you like, following the cues below for about 30 seconds to a minute each.
- Begin to notice how your body feels: heavy or light, stiff or relaxed? Walk naturally, but become aware of your posture and how you carry yourself.
- Tune into what’s going on around you — people walking by, window displays, trees, birds. Notice colors and shapes, as well as movement and stillness.
- Next, listen to sounds: What can you hear? Consider how sounds come and go in your field of awareness.
- Now turn your attention to smells: Some may be pleasant; others less so. Notice how the mind wants to create a story out of each, recalling people, places or things. Notice when the mind wanders; gently breathe and return to what you’re smelling.
- Note physical sensations, like warm sunshine or a fresh breeze in your face. Feel the soles of your feet touching the ground with each step, the weight of your arms swinging at your side, or an ache or stiffness in your hips. Without judging the sensations, notice as they come and go in turn.
- After a minute or two, contemplate the sensation of movement in the body: how the weight shifts from right to left, then back again. Notice the rhythm without adjusting your pace.
- Now use the rhythm of walking as your base of awareness. This is the place you’ll return to each time you realize your mind has wandered off. This is the equivalent of the rising and falling sensation of the breath when you do a sitting meditation.
- Continue your walk for as long as it’s comfortable. Whenever the mind strays, gently bring the attention back to the sensation of your feet striking the ground with each step.