Walking As Transformation
Walking is well known for its physical, emotional, and mental benefits, but it provides important transformational and spiritual benefits, as well. For thousands of years, walking — most often done outdoors (and not by coincidence) — has served as a well-worn path to spiritual awakening through rituals, labyrinths, shamanic practices, spiritual journeying, and pilgrimages. You might say walking is embedded in our bones as a way to deepen our connection to the divine within. Here are five tips for walking your way to deeper peace and transformation.
1. Go Alone
When done in solitude and silence, walking provides time for self-reflection and contemplation. It’s an opportunity to listen to the world around us and the voice within you, and to heighten awareness of each. When walking with another person, it’s much more challenging to be focused and aware. Walking partners will chat, have a different pace, want to take a different route, or want to stop or keep going when you might not want to. In short, walking with others doesn’t allow for the individualistic, self-directed, inner experience that can allow for the greatest transformational benefits.
2. Walk With Awareness
Walking alone allows you to bring more awareness to the walk itself, and to have a greater sensory awareness of the moment. This is the most important aspect of walking as a transformational practice. We want to bring our awareness to the walk, to the feel of our feet on the ground, the smells, temperature, wind, and sounds that surround us. In this way, walking becomes a meditative practice.
It’s okay if your mind wanders away from the sights, sounds, and smells of your walk. You may start to think about problems you’re facing, challenging experiences, or uncertainties. The back and forth motion of walking, called bilateral movement, actually helps facilitate deep thinking and problem solving, so your mind very well may wander, and the chances are good that you’ll gain new perspectives and come up with solutions to challenges you’re facing. Breathe, take in your surroundings, and notice your feelings. Become aware of all aspects of the walk, including any walking that might be occurring in your mind.
The mindset you bring to your walk is much more important than where you walk. It does not matter if you walk in the city or the country, down alleyways, on a forest trail, or through a shopping district. Thich Nhat Hanh reminds us that “Every path, every street in the world is your walking meditation path.” Anywhere you walk can lead you to deeper connection within.
Nor is the destination important because the goal is not to get somewhere. Rather, the objective is to be present in the moment and the experience. You can walk around your neighborhood, along city streets, through fields, or up a mountain. The location is not as important as your mindset.
3. Walk In Nature If You Can
Although you can walk anywhere to deepen your connection within, walking in nature often creates a more satisfying experience. Nature is a spiritual booster, and walking in a natural area, preferably quiet and somewhat removed from the bustle of life, will help you to derive even more benefit from your walk. Nature calms and focuses us. It is quiet, unhurried, and operates on its own time, and when we walk in nature, its rhythms can slow us down, quiet us, and help us to turn inward. Walking in nature means that we can experience all of the benefits of being in nature as well as those of walking at the same time.
4. Leave Electronics Behind
As long as you are outside, it does not matter where you go, but rather how you go. Turn off your phone, leave behind the music, and be absorbed in the walk itself. Talking on your phone, listening to music, or playing games while walking don’t count because they distract from your surroundings and the act of the walk. It’s difficult to be alone with your thoughts while playing Pokemon Go, and it’s impossible to be connected to your surroundings when your attention is split. Because phones, music, games, and any other form of distraction will distract from the experience, definitely leave them behind or silence them.
5. Walk For At Least 20 Minutes
In addition to walking outside, alone, and without distraction, try to walk at least twenty minutes, because it’s a good amount of time to be engaged in an activity and derive benefit from it. Twenty minutes is enough to feel results, change your mindset or mood, and be absorbed in what you’re doing, but not so much that it feels like wasted time where you are distracted because you feel you should be doing “productive” things. However, watching the clock to make sure that you hit your twenty minutes defeats one of the main purposes for the walk, which is to disconnect from our time-obsessed, busy lives. And if you feel that you want to keep walking after 20 minutes, by all means, please do. No matter where you start from or how long you go, walking can help you access your inner connection and peace.
Christian Reifsteck of Standing Stones Healing Co. is a certified Reiki Master, a powerful card reader with a variety of decks, and has served as a spiritual guide and coach for over 20 years with kind, respectful, compassionate understanding for clients at all stages of life. Visit standingstoneshealing.com for more information or contact him at email@example.com.