“Our way to practice is one step at a time, one breath at a time.” ~Shunryu Suzuki
I blinked my eyes, wiggled my toes, and carefully heaved my right foot out from under me. It had gone completely numb after twenty minutes of meditation. I prodded it tentatively.
“The idea is to be able to meditate wherever you are,” our teacher said, pouring out some green tea as we stretched, “to be really present in whatever it is you are doing—cutting the lawn, doing the dishes, whatever it is. To simply breathe in…and out…and just be.”
“You don’t have to sit still,” she continued, “you can do ‘moving meditation.’ It can be done through yoga, or any other form of movement. People do it in many different ways—swimming, cycling… Don’t tell me people who go walking aren’t meditating.”
I was now rubbing my foot, which was tingling with pins and needles, but was distracted by the revelation.
Moving meditation! Of course!
I thought back to all the walks I’d done through the British countryside.
It was true: walking was meditation, even if I didn’t realize it at the time.
As I left the class, I thought about how walking had taught me so many important lessons; and most importantly, lessons I learned in my body and not just my mind.
So if you can, I’d encourage you to get out of the city and go for a walk.
1. You will learn to cope with the ups and downs.
There are times when the going is easy, where you run for the sheer exhilaration of it.
But you’ll discover inner reserves of strength to cope with the pouring rain and the difficult climbs, and appreciate the blue skies even more.
2. You will learn that small steps quickly add up to a big achievement.
When I was pregnant, I had muscle pain in my hip, which made walking extremely painful. I ended up on crutches, taking the tiniest step after small step in agony.
It took me forty-five minutes to walk a route that usually took ten.
But I knew I would get there in the end if I just kept moving, because, as my dad always says, “Just remember, all you have to do is get one foot in front of the other.”
And then do it again.
It feels like glacial progress when you’re in the middle of it.
But when you look back, you will marvel at how far you’ve come.
3. You will learn that sometimes, the path ahead is unclear.
This is when you have to really be courageous, trusting your intuition and experience to find the right path, and finally coming to a decision, and moving on.
4. You will learn flexibility.
Often when walking, you have to change your route because the weather or other unexpected obstacles can dash the best-laid plans.
You will learn to shrug your shoulders, go with the flow, and adjust.
5. You will learn to keep going, no matter what.
It’s called perseverance.
When the climb uphill seems endless and painful, you remind yourself that the pain is temporary.
You know from doing this countless times before that it will be so worth it in the end.
6. You will learn to appreciate every sparkling, unique second.
When you’re walking, your senses are alert. You are truly alive.
You notice curious birds hovering overhead, a blade of grass fluttering in the breeze, the sounds of a trickling stream, the shape of the cloud, and the way the wind ripples the water on the lake.
You will marvel at how the combination of all these things on this particular day at this particular moment will never again be repeated in the entire history of the universe in quite the same way, and feel so grateful.
Others may be making the same journey as you, but the paths they chose to the top may be different. They’ll see different things, and experience the day uniquely.
No one will ever experience this moment in the same way as you.
7. You will learn the importance of the journey.
They say when you’re having fun, time flies.
But I think that’s wrong, because when I walk, time seems to slow down.
I absorb so much, notice so much, simply be so present in the walk that I feel like I’ve been walking for hours when in reality, only a short time has passed.
Actually, it is when I’m in my normal routine in London that the days whiz by in a flash, and I wonder what I’ve achieved.
The familiar surroundings, the concrete of the city, the crowds of rushing, stressed out commuters—meditation is certainly possible in these circumstances, but for a stronger will than mine.
In the city, we are so focused on achieving our goals that our mind is often totally focused on our plans for the future. When we reach one goal, we think “Right, done, what’s next on my to do list?” We rarely sit back and take time to enjoy the journey.
As my meditation teacher says, “We are human beings. Simply be.”
Walking is the best way I know to experience this.
Why not try it?
Photo by Patrik Jones