There's a long history in meditative practice that includes walking. There are guided walking meditations that provide a structure for focusing on the walk and books written about it from many different spiritual traditions. One google search of "walking meditation" will lead to a gazillion resources. These next paragraphs aren't a lofty discussion of the hows and whys of meditation, but of why a long walk down the beach brings me clarity and makes me happy.
Walking for me is usually part of exercise and most often done (outside of walking to get from location A to location B) as an interval when I'm trying to fall back in love with running. It was the only exercise available for a number of weeks last Fall when I broke my wrist. Those walks were long enough for me to get acquainted with a quiet brain hum that occurs after a certain distance. About a mile into the walk, I feel a rhythm and start to realize that the walking has begun to take over the thinking. Thoughts come...and then go. For short periods, there are no fully formed thoughts at all.
I've learned this can also happen with treadmill walking, if I just walk and don't watch the attached tv or listen to music. Sometimes I'll walk on a treadmill at the climbing gym and watch people climb. Even that lends itself to a quiet brain. I think it's the observation of the external that facilitates the calm. It's information that I don't have to do anything with...just see it. Whatever I'm observing doesn't need anything from me. No input, no advice, no judgment.
Walking meditation for me right now is beach meditation. It's walking that is meditative, and I'm at the beach...the gold standard of walking locations as far as I'm concerned. There's an energy to the sand and the water that invites walking. It feels easy to walk for a long time. The ocean is both peaceful and mesmerizing. It feels like "let's be in this moment watching this wave roll out on this sand" and in the same moment "this water has been here since the beginning of time and god almighty, the stories it could tell!"
By the time my calves ache a little and more sunscreen is in order, I feel calm. I feel happy. And later, when I don't, I'm pretty sure...beach or not...I can walk my way back to it.
Hi, I'm Donna. Long time artisan/creative. Full time work in nonprofit world. Mother of two adult sons. Currently, also mother of two cats.
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