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WALKING FOR MEDITATION

I will tell you what I have learned myself.

For me, a 5 or 6 mile long walk helps, and one must go alone every day. 

As long as I approached walking as exercise, I would never make it past the front door.  But one day last week I was so anxious I felt as though I would jump out of my own skin, and so I bolted out of the house at lunchtime as if I were leaving the scene of a crime.  Filled with disappointments, painful memories and my own realistic expectations from the past (we had just had my mum's funeral) terrified of what the future held and the changes that were inevitable.  The only safe place for me was the present moment. 

My foot against the pavement, the wind on my face, my breath entering and leaving my body, 40 minutes later I stopped discovered to my amazement that I was nearly in Parkgate and headed back home along the Wirral Way, calm and centered.  I have walked every day since.  Slowly, I am learning what Henry David Thoreau knew, “it requires a direct dispensation from Heaven to be a walker”, but I still don’t walk for exercise.  Instead I have started walking regularly for my soul, and my body tags along. 

There are different reasons for walking, to increase the heart rate and build strength, to solve a creative problem, to finish that argument with yourself, to saunter and wake up to the world around you, and to meditate.  I now walk for all of them.

But most days I will be walking for a moving meditation, fitness of the spirit.  I will try to quieten the voices in my head, take long strides and concentrate on the slow steady rhythm of my breath, comforted by the interior silence. 

Suddenly my reverie might be broken by the sound of birds singing, a dog barking or the sight of a pretty garden. Thoreau complained of walking sometimes without getting there in spirit, "the thought of some work will run in my head and I am not where my body is, I am out of my senses". 

This happened to me as well, but I am learning to train myself to return my awareness to the physical act of walking, for here in the present moment, one step at a time, I have found peace.

If you have had difficulty sitting down to meditate, you might like to give walking meditation a chance, especially now that the beautiful weather has returned.  Take into consideration your preferences, if you are not a morning person, take a walk at midday, in the late afternoon, or after supper under the stars.  Even if you work in the city during the day, you can break at lunch and take a walk.  No one needs to know that you've shut the world out and are meditating as you stroll down the street.  Twenty minutes to half an hour everyday is a good amount of time to restore a sense of serenity.

I have found there is no wrong way to do a walking meditation.  Sometimes we expect to feel immediate transcendence and are disappointed when it seems as if nothing is happening.  

Let go of expectations and life will unfold.  Step.  By.  Step.