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MINDFUL WALKING

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On certain days and for a variety of reasons, the idea of mindfully sitting for any length of time may evoke a strong sense of aversion. Of course, if this occurs, you always have the option off choosing to be curious about that aversion, working with it, as well as being receptive to any other strong feelings, thoughts and attending sensations that may arise.

Or you can walk. Mindful walking is an excellent way to get us out of our anxious, stressed and ruminating head and into the movement of our body. Our senses too become involved moment to moment with the world around us.

537In fact, sitting meditation is no more important than walking with presence. If you get right down to it, they are the same practice. We are learning to know and experience the contents of our mind and body.

However, walking meditation is different than simply going for a walk around the block, taking a nature hike, or to getting from point A to point B. Mindful walking is a deliberate practice that has us arrive in the present moment with each step.

If you have the ability to walk, you probably seldom bring much attention to it. Most of us take it for granted. After that initial year of so when we were toddlers and had to bring quite a lot of focus to it as we literally “toddled” from coffee table to Mom’s knees to the floor! But it is quite a miracle when you think of it, how we humans can balance on these feet of ours compared to the size of our bodies.

footprintsIf you like to try some walking meditation, you begin by becoming fully aware of the process of walking itself. To begin, stand with intention. Simply put, know that you have chosen to stand and begin to notice how your feet are firmly planted on the ground that supports you. Your arms are held loosely by your side. Your spine is fully erect but not rigid, standing with ease. Know that as you walk, you are embodying dignity and grace.

In formal walking meditation, we typically focus on the individual movement involved with shifting the weight of our body, lifting the foot on the other side, and then placing the foot on the ground. We may even find it helpful to say silently to ourselves as we walk, “Lifting, moving, placing, lifting, moving, placing.”

To begin, find a quiet place where you can walk undisturbed for about ten to fifteen minutes without distractions, and where you can walk back and forth for a distance of ten to twenty feet. Start off by walking slowly and paying attention to sensations on the soles of the feet as each part of the sole, from heel to toes, touches the ground. Notice how the body moves as you walk and how the arms may swing back and forth. If at any point you notice the mind wandering from walking, just acknowledge this and gently bring the focus back.   IMG_0506

You may soon discover that sometimes you may feel like walking more quickly, sometimes very slowly. And if family, friends, or coworkers become curious about what it is you are doing, who knows, perhaps a community of mindful walkers will sprout and naturally grow, supporting your and others’ endeavors!

 

 

 

 

MINDFUL HUGGING PRACTICE

There is truly no greater gift to give someone than your full, pure presence. We intuitively know this to be true. Perhaps you can recall a time in your own life when you’ve had the experience of someone’s complete and undivided attention. What did it feel like? The feelings may have been profound or subtle, but are almost universally life-affirming.

How were they embodying that presence? We often recognize that the body is relaxed and quiet; the emotional energy is clear and focused. Their shared thoughts back to you reflect a deep state of listening. meditation_selfcompassion

Yet we also know this is a rare occurrence. How often do we really give our full attention to someone? Our child is sharing their day and we are only partially listening while we cook dinner, fold laundry, return a work text. We are having a conversation with a friend or a coworker and simultaneously remembering a task undone or impatiently waiting for them to finish so it’s ‘our turn’. This is a human tendency. Fortunately, we can choose to communicate in a more skillful, even transformative way. Read more

Mindfulness…Just Do It

Last fall, I took a refresher course, attending an eight week mindfulness workshop at the First Parish Church in Concord, MA.  About 20 years ago, I had completed a similar course and for several years after that was somewhat of a devotee.  To say that practicing mindfulness is life changing would be true, to the degree that I actually practice its tenets, that I show up each day with myself/for myself for a half hour or so.  While daily prayer and meditation are the unequivocal spiritual powerhouses, necessities to deepen our soul and to share the best of who we are with others, I still like to take a day or two or three off sometimes.  Hence the need for a tune up and a reminder to begin again…and again…and again.

Why do we struggle so with those things we know are better than good for us? We humans just seem to have a penchant for desiring the shinier, easier, faster approach in any given moment instead.  Prayer is simply not glitzy and meditation does not usually provide immediate results.  The same holds true for exercise or a healthy diet or raising a child.  So can you hear the voice?  You know the one, “I think I’ll have a cup of tea and cookies instead this afternoon.  After all, that’s relaxing too.” Or, “Suzy just called and I hadn’t talked to Suzy in so long, and you know, by the time I got around to meditating, it was time to make dinner.”

Every perennial dieter knows the slippery slope when a day or two of indulgence leads into weeks or even months of a return to bad habits. The same goes for prayer. Do you ever save praying for bedtime and fall asleep in the middle of it or before you get started? I present it like this, because I am a gal with varied interests. I am not a plodder. I do not like the same breakfast food every morning. But like every one of us, I am also a dichotomy.  While I adore novelty, I need routine.

I work out 5-6 times a week (mostly running and some light weight training) and have since I was a freshman in college.  I must admit that I feel more than a bit off kilter without it.  Also, I am fiercely loyal, loving the enduring quality of old friends, and looking  forward to our long standing weekly lunches. In fact, a major part of my spiritual journey has been learning to let go, having had the tendency (very much a mixed blessing) to hold on and hope in relationships until hit with an anvil of mammoth proportions.    

So mindfulness brings balance to these occasionally oppositional impulses, knowing when to let go, when to persevere, harmonizing my desire for variety and my need for certainty.  

When I was pregnant with my first daughter, I would dutifully find a chair or mat each day and allow my thoughts to drift on by, like words on a series of passing clouds.  I wrestled with monkey mind, the term which simply refers to the mind’s tendency to jump from one thought to the next…the on-going to-do list, last night’s argument with your significant other, where to go on winter vacation, can we afford to go on winter vacation, yada yada yada. The attending emotions to these thoughts gradually loosened their hold on me over time.

Clarity would be granted (not for long stretches of time, mind you, and not the imagined perfect bliss), but a quiet soul sigh. I used to tell my kids when they were little that you don’t get clean, strong teeth if you only brush your teeth 3 or 4 times a week, you need to do it every day.  Spiritual health holds to the same principle of consistency just as physical health does. Half hearted attempts avail us either nothing or only partial benefits.  A reasonable consistency, mind you, is the hallmark of all positive life shifts.  Notice I say reasonable.  Those of us prone to impulsivity or compulsion (me) also tend to be pendulum swingers.  Just do it, routinely but flexibly. And don’t worry, no matter how you’re doing, you’re doing it right.

Book Pick of the Day: The Miracle of Mindfulness by Thich Nhat Hanh

Quote from the Book of the Day: “Mindfulness is the miracle by which we master and restore ourselves.  Consider, for example: a magician who cuts his body into many parts and places each part in a different region-hands in the south, arms in the east, legs in the north, and then by some miraculous power lets forth a cry which reassembles whole every part of his body.  Mindfulness is like that-it is the miracle which can call back in a flash our dispersed mind and restore it to wholeness so that we can live each minute of life.”