Sitting

Walking Meditation: Mindfulness On the Move By ALICIA SPARKS

 

Walking Path Sign

I took my first meditation walka few weeks ago. I’ve since done some research aboutwalking meditation, and wow–there’s a ton of information out there!

My meditation walk was hosted by a licensed counselor who often offers group seminars and private sessions on mindfulness, so I feel confident I learned–definitely not everything–but a good solid foundation for planning my own mindfulness walks.

So, for simplicity’s sake–and to add to the wealth of information already available–I’ll focus on my own meditation walk.

 

Walking Meditation vs. Still Meditation

Probably, this goes without saying, but the main difference between walking meditation and still meditation is you’re not sitting still during walking meditation.

(Oh, and you’re eyes should be always are open!)

Walk at a comfortable, slow pace. Don’t rush–you’ve set this time aside for yourself. Intentionally step heel to toe, one foot at a time, paying attention to how the dirt, pavement, or gravel feels under your soles.

So, understand you won’t be sitting or lying still, but don’t be afraid that you won’t reap some of the same meditation and mindfulness benefits.

Understand Your Mindfulness Meditation Walk

Why are you taking a meditation walk? Why are you choosing to walk rather than sit or lie?

Maybe you want to sharpen your senses, or reconnect with your surroundings. Maybe there’s a specific issue in your life you want to meditate on and you feel moving rather than sitting still will help.

Prepare for Your Walking Meditation

As with any practice–yoga, meditation, running–there’s a little preparation involved before you get started.

Here are a few tips my mindfulness coach shared:

  • Dress appropriately. Wear comfortable walking shoes (or, for you beach bunnies, make sure the sand’s nice and soft!) and wear clothes cool or warm enough for the current temperatures.
  • Set aside enough time. Sure, “enough time” is relative, but walking is a bit different from sitting or lying still, so it’s okay to shoot for at least 30 minutes.
  • Choose your course. Choose a safe area, but feel free to choose among a variety of environments. You can be just as mindful in a park full of boisterous toddlers as you can on a quiet mountain path.
  • Plan your course *. Once you know where you’ll walk, where will you start? Where will you take a left, a right, or turn around to head home? Sure, you could wander, but we’re focusing on mindfulness here. Start out knowing where you’re headed and then focus on being mindful of that course.
  • Patience, not perfection. Whether it’s your first mindfulness walk or you’re a veteran at meditation walking, be prepared to get distracted–and be prepared to let those distractions pass on by. You might find yourself thinking about unrelated things–bills, your dishes, Sally’s dance recital. Once you become aware of those thoughts, don’t indulge them; just let them pass through. Do the same for any distracting environmental noises (beyond those senses of which you’re striving to be mindful).

* Remember all that “different information” I mentioned in the beginning? Well, here’s an example: Rather than choosing a proper “path,” some meditation walk instructions suggest finding a stretch of land, 30 or 40 feet long, and walking back and forth. Although this sounds beneficial in its own way, it wasn’t my experience this time.

Plan Your Mindfulness Walk

Aside from preparing for your walk–and knowing where you’ll walk–considering planning your mindfulness topics.

For example, my mindfulness walking class was a donation-based class to help raise money for an upcoming charity event, so our mindfulness coach divided our walk into three parts and instructed us to focus on something different during each section:

  • First Part: We focused on our breath. The goal was to shut out as much environmental elements as safely possible and pay attention to our breath. Were we breathing deeply? Was our breath shallow? Were we thinking too much about it, instead of letting it happen naturally? What could we do to relax ourselves and thus relax our breath?
  • Second Part: We focused on our five (or six, as my coach allowed for) senses. We smelled the air and listened to children’s laughter and occasional car horns. We felt the wind on our skin and watched the leaves blow in one direction or another. We even tasted the air, our last bite, our latest sip of water.
  • Third Part: During the third and final part of our mindfulness walk, we focused on our current purpose: the charity. Why was the cause important to us? What did we hope to achieve at the event? What were our own personal goals for bettering the situation?

Of course, you might mix up these parts, or take away or add a few. It’s entirely up to you. Your mindfulness walk must work for YOU.

Reflect On Your Meditation Walk

After your meditation walk, don’t immediately hop in your car or get started on dinner. Take some time to reflect on your meditation.

Did you learn anything? Did your mindfulness help you reach any realizations or conclusions?

Did you enjoy walking more than sitting, or was it just a different experience for you?

Was there anything you could “tweak” to make the experience more beneficial?

So, how about YOU, readers? Do you think you’ll try a mindful meditation walk this weekend? Or, have you already put a few meditation walk notches in your belt and have your own experiences to share with us?

http://blogs.psychcentral.com/your-mind/2013/10/walking-meditation-mindfulness-on-the-move/

The Big Chill-Out: How Meditation Can Help With Everything | Fast Company | Business + Innovation

Changing the way your genes express themselves, coaxing you to actually understand yourself, and finally letting you really relax: Meditation is well worth getting familiar with.

By: Drake Baer

At the start of the monsoon season two summers ago, I was sitting cross-legged in a humid classroom in in the foothills of the Himalayas. As an aside to her laughing explanations of contemplative life, our teacher was telling us that just as Arctic people have many words for snow, Tibetans have a rich vocabulary for mental actions–and among all those words for ascertaining and understanding, the Tibetan word for meditation is göm.

Göm, she says, translates most directly as familiarization. Not stillness or clarity or insight or any of the other transcendental yearnings that I had heaped upon my meditation practice, but a simple becoming-familiar-with-ness. Just as you come to know neighborhoods by wandering around them, people by talking to them, or darkened guesthouse rooms by stumbling into their furniture, you become familiar with your mind by sitting still with it.

What is it to become familiar? A sort of intimacy, and with that, a sort of vulnerability; The sociologist Brené Brown writes of how people insulate themselves from their experiences for fear of the shame they’d feel for feeling the way they feel. The practice of meditation, then, is a becoming familiar with these layers of feeling the way that you feel in the same way you get to know a friend: like those little Russian matryoshka nesting dolls, you get to know an identity layer by layer.

What meditation does for you

Interestingly, the modern Western tradition of objective research is increasingly corroborating the ancient Eastern tradition of subjective research into meditation–and the results are as intuitive as they are fascinating, as intriguing as they are motivating.

We’re usually not very good at reporting on our experiences: We’re more racist than we care to admit; we’re all sure we’re plenty popular; and if we think we’re good at multitasking, at least we aren’t the worst. But experienced meditators are adept at introspection: As the authors of one study on the topic conclude, “the simplest interpretation … is that subjects with greater meditation experience may provide more accurate reports of mental experience.”

But perhaps even more profound than that, a Massachusetts General Hospital study found meditation changes your gene expression. How? While when we experience stress, we usually have the tense mobilization of fight-or-flight response, people with a little meditation training are able to instead bring to mind what psychologists call the relaxation response to stress, allaying anxiety and hypertension.

Meditation isn’t “just relaxing,” co-author Dr. Herbert Benson told Atlantic writer Lindsay Abrams. Instead, when you begin to mediate, you start to have “a specific genomic response that counteracts the harmful genomic effects of stress.” The genes associated with inflammation turn off; the genes involved in energy metabolism and other functions turn on.

And these microscopic changes have macro effects.

How meditation translates into work

As we’ve discussed, cultivating a meditation practice can help you become a better leader and more creative–it worked for Disney.

So how to begin? Therapist and meditation teacher Ron Alexander once gave us a place to start:

Sit in a comfortable cross-legged position, or in a straight-backed chair with your feet on the floor, or lie down. If seated, close your eyes gently; if you lie down, keep your eyes slightly open.

Set an alarm for between 12 and 20 minutes.

Focus on your breath as it enters and leaves your nostrils or on the rise and fall of your belly.

When thoughts, feelings, or sensations arise, don’t try too hard to push them away. Acknowledge them, but then refocus on your breathing.

And after enough hours of on-the-cushion familiarization, you gain a hard-to-articulate skill.

Study: How Yoga Alters Genes

via The Big Chill-Out: How Meditation Can Help With Everything | Fast Company | Business + Innovation.

 

Rebecca Lammersen: Silencing the Myth of Meditation: You Don’t Have to Sit Still to Be Present

“I can do this. Just 20 minutes. Just sit still. My shoulder itches. Stop thinking about it! My foot is falling asleep, almost numb. The numbness is always the opening act for the pins and needles. That would be a good name for a band, The Pins and Needles, and here they come, singing right up my leg. I’ve never been able to decide whether moving helps them go away faster or just makes it worse. I think I should go get more yogurt cups for the girls at Trader Joe’s. Oh, and I need more apples too. Okay, my shoulder really itches now, I’ve got to itch it. Just breathe a little longer. Speaking of, how long has it been? Don’t look, don’t do it!”

I peel my upper lid from my lower lid, just enough so no one will notice, even though the only living creature nearby is a quail squatting outside my door, and I doubt he can see past his beak.

“Really? It’s only been two minutes? Who am I meditating for? Why would I care if someone sees me open my eyes? I feel defeated. I can’t even sit for two minutes without a full chorus of complaints and to-dos.”

This is how it used to be.

For 10 years, I struggled my way through every meditation. I had the desire and the discipline, yet I couldn’t seem to be anywhere, but elsewhere.

A few years ago, I began asking the question, Why? Why do I meditate? and Why can’t I meditate? From the why came the how: How do I meditate?

Meditation is a science — the science of understanding the pathways of the brain and how they react to different situations, experiences and stimuli. Through this understanding, we can learn how to respond to these reactions and train the brain to focus.

Before we can have a purposeful meditation and yoga practice, we must first become a scientist fluent in the physics of the practice. It is impossible to bepresent in stillness for any amount of time without knowing how our brain functions.

Until we aquire this knowledge, sitting is ineffective — a waste of time, and detrimental to our well being due to the unnecessary pressure and expectation that breeds from our naiveté.

“Practice and all is coming.”

These are the wise words of the late Pattabhi Jois, the master of Ashtanga. I agree, as long as there is a method to the practice and guidance of the method.

Practice may bring a mastery that mimics perfection, but practice also creates suffering if one does not know what they are doing and why they are doing it.

Attempting to sit in meditation without learned technique is comparable to placing a 2-year-old on the floor of the NYSE and expecting him to navigate the system on his own while conducting the trades for the day.

Chaos amidst chaos. Chaos causes more chaos. My favorite description of enlightenment is, “Enlightenment is learning not to make more struggle of the existing struggle.”

In this situation, not making more struggle would be grooming and teaching a person how to traverse the trading floor with grace, discerning the viable trades within the noise and creating a profit.

Meditation is the same. We learn how the brain operates, cultivating the tools to manage it, before we sit down to listen to it. The profit bestowed to an educated meditator is a contented life, with an abundance of efficiency, discernment and intention. We respond more and react less, because we (the mind) have learned how to direct the brain as it keeps the trading floor open all day, every day.

The brain is the NYSE, the mind is the trader.

The brain and the mind are two separate parts, as are the spirit and the soul. In order for them to work synergistically, they must be studied separately, understood individually and then, connected together.

Before we can be present in stillness, we may want to learn how to be present in action.

The other day, a woman approached me, and in one stressed breath she asked: “My friend told me you are a yoga teacher, and I’ve always wanted to meditate and be present, and I just want to learn how, how can I meditate?”

I asked, “You probably already do and you don’t even know it. What do you love to do that calms you?”

Her face relaxed and she replied quietly, “I like to run. I can hear myself breathe. I feel my feet and I notice my surroundings.”

“So you see? You already meditate. Just do it more, in other facets of your life. Turn any chore or repetitive action into a sensory overload, and see if you can separate each sense from the other. For example, when I vacuum, I am only vacuuming. I pay attention to the feel of the handle in my hand. The vibration and hum as I turn it on, how the vacuum resists as it stumbles across a crumb on the carpet, and the sound of the crumb as it is chewed inside the canister.

“I am completely there, in the experience, hearing, feeling, seeing — sensing. I am fixating my brain on a task as my mind remains concentrated in the experience. I extract myself from my surroundings, so that I may be in it, being in it, is being present.”

Her response began with a sigh of relief. “Oh my gosh, I can totally do that.”

“Yes you can,” I encouraged.

The “how to” begins with attention — paying attention and educating ourselves about the mechanics of the brain. That’s it.

Before we can sit still and meditate like a monk in a Nepalese cave, we need to learn how bathe within ourselves, in the active moment, without thinking of the next action.

This is presence, being present and I think it may even be a little something “they” like to call enlightenment.

Rebecca Lammersen: Silencing the Myth of Meditation: You Don’t Have to Sit Still to Be Present.

 

Quick Tips for Beginning Meditators

Meditation, as you may have heard, is a wonderful practice for Mind, Body and Spirit, but it is not easy to master.  Like anything, it will take awhile to learn how to clear your mind and fit a practice into your life.  If it were easy, everyone would do it all the time!  Be patient with yourself and remember that even experienced meditators have to begin at the same place you do and with practice, it will become easier for you, too.

Things to Avoid during Meditation:

  • Potential distractions such as a possibility of being interrupted
  • A Full Stomach
  • Over or Under Hydration
  • Meditating when too tired
  • Expecting too much to happen at first

Things to Try:  

  • Different Seated positions
  • A pillow behind your low back
  • A pillow under your feet if sitting in a chair or under knees if cross-legged
  • Sitting at the front edge of your chair
  • Sitting with back against the wall
  • Coffee or Tea to keep the mind awake while the body relaxes

Remember to be patient with yourself.  As with any new skill, Meditation is best learned with the support of a teacher that you respect and trust and will be more quickly learned with daily practice.  Practicing a simple awareness of your breath is a good place to start and can be done anywhere and anytime without changing anything.

Next: Tips for incorporating meditation into your daily life.