Many of us have a watch, phone, or fitness tracker that suggests we take 10,000 walking steps a day. Like so many things in our life, this becomes a goal we are trying to reach, a measurement of success, without being mindful of our intention or what we are really accomplishing.
In my past, walking was about getting to a destination, weight loss, or shopping. Until a few years ago, I had not considered walking as a form of meditation. But, I noticed, after I turned my walks into a meditation practice, I was calmer, could think more clearly, noticed a greater sense of gratitude, and felt more connected to nature.
If you are in an office building, parking lot, gym, city sidewalk, or walking trail you can turn your steps into a soul stroll. Each time you take a step, you can be mindful of your movement and tune into the present moment. Try taking a soul stroll this week and see what you notice.
1. Allow at least 10 minutes for a mindful soul stroll.
2. Select a place to walk that will be quiet and with little distractions. Walk without headphones or conversation.
3. Begin with a relaxed pace. This is a walk to calm your nervous system and connect your mind, body, and soul to one another. At first, notice your right foot and every time it lands in front, silently count that as a step until you reach a count of ten. This might be your thinking: Right foot forward, count 1. Left foot forward. Right foot forward, count 2. Left food forward. When you reach ten, begin again at one. Count in rounds of ten as long as needed to quiet your mind and become more aware of your steps. Notice that your racing mind quiets as it can only concentrate on counting steps and not the worries of the day.
(Remember that you do not have to look at your feet to count your steps! You can do it by connecting your mind to your body in awareness and simply be aware without looking at your feet. And it is always safer to walk with your eyes gazing ahead.)
4. When you are ready for something different. Leave the counting practice and become mindful of your heel-toe movement. Without manipulating your stride, just notice, with each foot, when your heel touches the earth and when your toes touch the earth. Observe this heel-toe rhythm as long as you can to keep your thoughts calm and focused on simplicity.
5. Now try to lighten your steps. Walk gently on the earth. Notice if you were pounding or tense as you began your stroll. Think about floating as you walk and become lighter throughout your body. Try to lighten your step and notice if you can allow other muscles to relax as well. Notice if your jaw is tight, relax your forehead, allow your shoulders to drop down, and let your arms relax at your sides. Think about the words of Thich Nhat Hanh, "Walk as though you are kissing the earth with your feet."
6. After you feel more at peace and tuned into your body, connect with your soul. Ask yourself questions and see what your soul has to say in response. Feel gratitude for nature or things you see around you. Notice the miracles. Tune your soul into the present moment and sense what you can see, smell, taste, touch, or feel in this moment. Listen to the wisdom of your soul.
Experiment with your own variations of this soul stroll. This walking meditation is a way for you to tune into awareness, peace, and soul guidance.
You can add breathing practices to your walk and mantras as you wish.
If I am overwhelmed with a decision, I might take a walk and on my inhale, say to myself: I grateful to be alive. And on my exhale, say to myself: I am taking a step forward.
Soul strolls can be life changing as a calming mindful practice. And, much healthier than other ways we can cope with stress.
And we all know the added benefit of endorphins and dopamine released from movement, being in nature, and self-compassion....a soul stroll can offer you all of that!
When we feel better, we do better.