How to practice walking mindfully

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The best thing to do on a winter morning is to go on a walk. There’s typically not many people outside since it is cold, so you can have some time alone in nature.

I put on my warm winter clothing, comfortable walking shoes and left my phone at home. You can enjoy nature and be more mindful without your device.

As I was walking, I focused on how my feet felt touching the ground. I took a deep breath and enjoyed the cold brisk air. As soon as I started thinking about this or that, I brought my attention back to the present moment of just walking.

So often while you’re walking, you’re not actually focusing on walking. I know this because it is what happens to me, unless I make a concerted effort to walk mindfully.

Like most people, you’re thinking, planning or processing something that happened.

Those thoughts can lead to stories that you usually make up in your own head. Before you know it, you may begin feeling tense or anxious.

What is mindful walking?

Learning to practice mindfulness is a way of gaining present moment awareness of those thoughts, and then learning to be non-judgemental and then letting them go.

It takes a lot of practice and no one is perfect at it.

Mindfulness is a moment to moment practice. You can congratulate yourself when you notice that your mind has drifted off, and you bring yourself back to the present moment. The moment of awareness is actually when the neural connections grow and you get better at it.

Even if your mindfulness walk is for 3 minutes, you will notice how much better you feel because you were present in the experience.

So as I was practicing my mindful walk, I decided to look up and I saw some beautiful trees.

Autumn leaves

Lessons from the trees

The trees this time of year are stunning because of the changes in color. 

There were streets lined with heaps of fallen leaves with vast arrays of colors and different sounds when I walked on top of them. 

Again, I am usually just walking and not noticing these subtle things around me, but I decided to mindfully walk through the leaves and listen to the crunch and crackle of them underneath my feet.

I picked up a leaf and looked at the intricate designs and textures. I picked up a handful of leaves and threw them up in the air and watched them gently fall down.

Person standing on leaves

Then I had a profound realization.

I realized that as people we go through a lot of change and loss in our life. We have a tendency to hold onto things because it is hard to let go. 

Trees on the other hand are adaptable. They are constantly in a state of change. During the winter they allow their leaves to fall or bark to shed because it’s the only way they can grow. Trees don’t hold onto their leaves or flowers because if they did they would be weighed down and end up getting sick. (It’s true…trees also get sick).

I think people have a similar experience.

When you are unwilling to let go of pain or embrace loss then it will fester in your body and likely make you ill. 

Perhaps we all need to adopt the same mentality that nature and trees have and try to let go and embrace uncertainty as much as we can.

Ridges from a tree bark

We can not stop change from happening. Change is the only constant in our lives.

What we can do is accept that change will happen (whether or not we like it) and like a tree we will shed our leaves and then with time we will gain, grow and flourish.

Wrap-up

Mindful walking in nature is a practice of paying attention to the moment to moment experience of physically walking and the sensations in your body and breath.

Paying attention to nature will give you the opportunity to see the parallel experience of nature and your own life.

Let me know in the comments below what difference walking mindfully made for you. How often did you go outside and walk? Did you notice that you were more present and aware? How long did it take you to notice any changes?

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