Stress is part of modern day living. We can not avoid stress. A reasonable amount of stress can even be good for us, helping us to perform at our best. We get into trouble when the stress we are subjected to becomes unbearable. This specific amount varies from person to person. Person A might think a certain amount of stress unbearable, person B might not even notice. It depends a lot on what else is going on in our lives. If we have to cope with stress at work as well as at home, we will feel stressed sooner than someone who has a peaceful home life. When stress continues over a period of time, even if varies in intensity during that period, it can damage our physical and/or mental health.
Walking Meditation is Mindful Walking and mindful walking meditation can help us cope with stress.
When Aurore (Rorie to her close friends) was a foal, we spent a lot of time introducing her to the world so that she would grow up to be a confident and contented adult horse. One of the ways we did this, was to take her for long walks through the countryside, along the vineyards, past the lakes, into the woods, across the meadows and around the local orchards, first with her mother and later on her own.
Now Rorie was never really going to be an easy-to-intimidate horse. Although she is insatiably curious about every new thing she comes across, she is not stupid, so she is always very careful to inspect every new thing in detail before she makes up her mind about whether it is threatening to her in any way, or not.
Rorie’s curious-but-cautious approach to life made walking along a country path with her an exercise in mindfulness. A hundred paces might take her thirty or more minutes because she had to inspect very grass poll and every blade of grass in every grass poll. She would sniff it and if it smelled appetising, she would take a bite If it tasted good, she would eat it. We had to stop so that she could look closely at every butterfly fluttering by, at every bee gathering pollen in a flower, at every bird building a nest in a tree…and then we had to pause so that she could reflect on each of these new experiences. We certainly were going nowhere fast. And if a tractor should come by! The ever-so-patient neighbouring farmers eventually realised that they had to stop each time they drove past Rorie so that she could inspect their tractors – especially if the tractor had a piece of equipment attached that Rorie did not recognise . (Which was quite interesting to me too, I always wondered what all the different bits and pieces were for – now I know.)
The reason why I mentioned Rorie’s intrepid forays into the French countryside is because it was while walking Rorie that I first started practising walking meditation. Never having enough minutes in the day, I thought that I might as well see if I can use our time together more effectively and combine the walk with a bit of meditation. This was when I found out that it is not only possible to walk and meditate at the same time, but that walking meditation is a widely practised meditation technique and that there was a lot of information available on-line about how to go about it.
Many people find sitting still in the same position for an extended periods of time difficult, either because they find it difficult to concentrate while sitting still (here I am thinking specifically about kinesthetic learners – people who can only learn if they can move at the same time – these people would have been scolded as school children for constant fidgeting) or because they have a physical condition, like arthritis, that makes sitting still painful.
For these people, walking meditation is an ideal solution. Walking meditation benefits both the body and the mind (as do most forms of meditation) but here you have the added benefit of slow and sustained movement, encouraging blood flow and muscle and joint mobilisation. Some people also say that they find it easier to be intensely aware of what is going on in their bodies while they are walking, than while they are sitting still. Concentrating on your body while walking can also make you aware of your posture when walking and can inspire you to walk with better posture and less tension, even when you are not meditating.
So what exactly is walking meditation?
Jack Kornfield, writes in his book «The Wise Heart», that walking meditation is a simple practice for developing calmness, connectedness, and embodied awareness. It can be practised regularly, before or after sitting meditation or at any time on its own. The aim of walking meditation is to learn to be aware as you walk, to use the natural movement of walking to cultivate mindfulness and wakeful presence.
Walking Meditation is Mindfulness Meditation in motion.
When we walk and meditate at the same time, the idea is to focus on the physical experience of walking to help you develop greater awareness of yourself and your surroundings without allowing yourself to be distracted by your thoughts. During our Mindfulness and Meditation workshops, we encourage our guests to try walking meditation by walking up and down the vineyards surrounding the farm. This makes for the minimum outside distraction, allowing our guests to enjoy walking outside without having to concentrate on the path itself. We also invite our guests to do walking meditation with the horses, following in Aurore’s footsteps. We encourage our guests to pay particular attention to how fully aware the horses are of their own bodies and at the same time of their environment.
How does one do walking meditation?
If you would like to find out more about walking meditation, including three variations on the walking meditation theme:
- labyrinth walking meditation,
- loving-kindness walking meditation and
- taking a poem for a walk meditation,
please consider buying my book, Mindfulness and Meditation in the south of France. (available in mid-Dec 2016 from Amazon). The book covers mindfulness and meditation in detail. Each chapter starts with a letter from a potential workshop participant, explaining her personal problems. Each chapter offers a potential solution based on mindfulness and meditation. You may even recognise yourself in one of the letters!
Walking is magic. Can’t recommend it highly enough. I read that Plato and Aristotle did much of their brilliant thinking together while ambulating. The movement, the meditation, the health of the blood pumping, and the rhythm of footsteps… this is a primal way to connect with one’s deeper self. – Paula Cole
If you are interested in joining us on a mindfulness meditation retreat at Les Sources Sacrées in the south of France, please fill in the form below – your e-mail address is 100% safe. Or contact us directly at welcome2gascony [at]gmail.com. To find out more about our mindfulness meditation workshops CLICK HERE.