For most of us, the changing of seasons from winter to spring signifies hope and a sudden burst of energy. We clean out our closets, purge what we aren’t using, and reach for a renewed sense of self. We discard what we don’t need, both materially and emotionally. As we move through the process of spring organizing and decluttering, we remind ourselves that we don’t need so much stuff: we, ourselves, are simply enough.
Once you’ve cleaned your closets, or if you just need a break, turn to the great outdoors for rejuvenation! Turn your mind from autopilot back to manual, returning to your senses with a wandering, walking meditation.
So what exactly is a walking meditation?
We all know how to walk—it’s a pretty ordinary task. We tend to lose ourselves in thought while we stroll. We jump from past to present, often not noticing what’s right in front of us. Walking meditation is meant to make you more aware; a simple practice to help you return to your senses. As we focus on the details of the walk, our minds and bodies slow down, giving them a chance to declutter while we focus on the details of the moment. Whether it’s a ten-minute break or an hour-long meander, you can use this ritual to bring clarity and settle your busy brain.
Let’s take a walk, shall we?
Whether you are walking in the mountains, on a beach, in the backwoods, or in the middle of a city, initiate your walking meditation the moment you step outside and take that first intentional breath. Pause and notice what expectations you have for this tiny trek. Luckily, there is no right or wrong way to walk. All we have to do is put one foot in front of the other and enjoy the journey, one sense at a time.
As you begin, return to your sense of touch. Pay attention to the physical motions of walking—you may have unintentionally tuned out these simple movements for decades. Notice how your weight shifts from side to side, front to back, and all the tiny adjustments your skillful body makes to maintain balance. Are your arms swinging? How does that feel? Try exaggerating the arm motion for a few strides, and then limiting it for a few before finding your natural motion again.
How does your weight change from one foot to the other? Take a step forward and feel your leg swing. Is it light in its transition from point A to point B? Take another step ahead, and another, and then another. Does it feel easy to walk today, or heavy and cumbersome? How does your foot strike the ground? Make it a point to stretch your toes in your shoes and firmly plant them back down on the ground. How does your weight transfer from the heel of the foot to the toe? As you move forward, notice how, with each step, the body takes a new form. Your body shifting from one side to the other, hips swaying, arms swinging, all while breathing with ease.
Feel the texture of the air around you. Is it damp? Dry? Cold? Hot? Windy? Still? How does your skin react to it? Does sweat bead up on the surface of your skin? Do goosebumps form? Do you shiver from the wind? Is the tempo of your breath smooth, calming, swift, or challenging? Can you feel your heart beating in your chest as you move?
Now listen. Hear your feet hitting the ground; notice the repetitive sound of each step. Match your breath with the cadence of your foot hitting the ground. Inhale for two or three steps, exhale for an equal number of steps. Repeat this process, allowing the rhythm of your breath to dance with your steps.
Become aware of sounds around you. Animals, car horns, traffic, wind, people talking, or your own breathing. Let the sounds surround you without straining to place them. Enjoy the sensation of not listening to music in your headphones for this walk, of hearing the chatter of birds or the thrumming of a city street.
Now tap into your sense of smell. What do you detect? Earthy smells of dirt and grass? Flowers coming in to bloom? A whiff of food from a nearby restaurant, wafting in the breeze? Do any of the smells take you anywhere, trigger any memories in your mind or your mood? Take a deep breath. Hold it in and let the smells permeate all the cells of your body.
Last but not least, return to your sense of sight, allowing the images of the world around you to flow past you, through you, as you move. Do you notice how the trees bend over the road, how the car headlights make a pattern, where the sky meets the edges of clouds? Are there obstacles in your way? Will you need to maneuver around them? Notice how easily the visual information travels from your eyes to your brain to your body, how many processes have to happen for you to step around a branch in your path.
Cycle through your senses in this way as you walk, spending a few minutes immersed in a sense until your mind begins to wander. When your to-do list starts to pop into your brain, move to the next sense, bringing your focus back to the current moment in consciousness.
As you come to the end of your walking meditation, let your last sense be one of gratitude. Bring to mind all the things you’re grateful for, from food on your table to friends and family to your sense of purpose on this earth.
With your final step, plant your feet firmly and stand tall, feeling yourself root into the ground, feeling your chest rise and fall, your posture strong and relaxed. Notice that, by simply tuning in to yourself, you have everything you need.
You truly are enough.