Fact: I need mindfulness in my life. After years of being swept up in the whirlwind of life with little kids, I’m well aware that autopilot isn’t the best way to go about our day-to-day. I’m after some awareness and intentionality.
Another Fact: I don’t love sitting meditation.
I plan to learn to love it, but…okay, let’s take last time I tried it, for example.
Mister and I sit down on the floor facing the wall. He fires up the Headspace free trial, which is just my style – it’s a short (10 minutes) guided audio recording, and has no religious orientation so there isn’t anything that my uncultured Western sensibilities have to make any sense of. They call themselves the “gym membership for the mind.”
So we start. The recorded voice guides us to pay attention to things like the feeling of our breaths, the weight of our arms and how the soles of our feet feel.
Just when he gets to the part where we should acknowledge any passing thoughts, my inner ear signals DANGER! and I snap to, realizing that my nose is about two inches from the floor.
Mister pops an eye open, tries to be discreet with his chuckle (Hey, I heard you!) and gets back in the zone.
And to think, the recording guy suggested meditating in a chair! Disaster averted, I’d say.
Apparently, I’m too sleep-deprived to meditate. So for now, my brain exercises are limited to writing blog posts. Writing amplifies the world around me in a way, and I think mindfulness exercises would help too. Meditation is going to take some work. (Perhaps I should try meditating in the morning, or fix my sleep first?)
Recently, I found out about walking meditation. It’s a mindfulness exercise where you pay attention to the movement and feelings of your feet and legs while walking.
If I’m walking, I won’t fall asleep!
Here’s how you do it.
Choose your path
There is no destination in mind. The best paths have no obstacles (so walking in a rocky area or in the woods isn’t going to work). You can use a track for the loop quality. Or you can choose two points that are no more than half a football field apart, as long as the terrain is smooth and somewhat uniform.
Set a slow pace
This isn’t a power walk, but you needn’t make this a somber activity, either. Walk comfortably and at a good pace to pay attention to the act of walking.
Concentrate on the motions of walking
When you’re stepping, your world should be centered around stepping. When you’re lifting your foot, your attention should focus on the act of lifting. You should watch for the moment when your weight shifts from one foot to the other at the hip. It’s all about the walk.
Acknowledge anything else that creeps into your focus
There’s no need to berate yourself for noticing other things. The point is to be able to bring your concentration back to your walking movements. If you notice a bird screech, say to yourself, “that’s a bird,” and get back to your feet. Try to do the same with thoughts that might wiggle their way into the open mind space that you’re trying to create.
Someone else should take the kids, or they can come along if it’s naptime and they’ll zonk in the stroller. If you bring them awake and raring to go, concentration will be broken every 14 seconds, as usual.
So, why should I try walking meditation?
It’s an exercise in mindfulness and focus.
If you take the time to really concentrate on something as boring as the way your legs and feet move despite the zillion more exciting distractions around you, it will become easier and easier to maintain focus when you actually need to.
Eventually, you will notice what a big distraction your thoughts can be, and it’s a learned skill to direct them back wherever you want them.
The result? The volume gets turned up on the things you choose to focus on.
I think we can all agree that the “Mommy brain” struggle is real, and it doesn’t go away. Couldn’t we all use a little boost in concentration?