The last three weeks of work, the first three weeks of the new school year, have been a combination of 100% full on and 100% non-stop with piles of new classes, new computers systems and new lessons. So waking up on this Saturday morning I decided to be in NO RUSH AT ALL. Instead of a usual sitting meditation or mindful movement I opted to do something different and walked out the front door with having no particular aim, apart from to take my time. Walking with no goal is a luxury difficult to pursue during the week and so it is one I love to cultivate and indulge in at other times.
Slow walking is likely brings less clarity than sat on the cushion where formality and routine allow for occasional slightly deeper moments of awareness. But slow (as opposed to mindful) walking has a looseness to it that means it is easier to blend practice and ‘normal life’. So I can be aware of the feeling in my feet for a few steps but then be distracted by having to step aside to allow a man and his dog to pass and or by the noise fumes of a bus pulling away and only sometime later being able to return to more mindful walking. Even early on a Saturday morning there are people and events to contend with so that just walking mindfully is not possible. But this mix can lessen the feeling of getting it wrong that often taints my formal practice.
But slow walking isn’t a cop out and a lesser activity than others. I find it helps increases my ability to sense my own surroundings. This morning I walked toward the town centre and so I was noticing features and details I have usually passed by in ignorance.
There was a tree half down from this week’s winds
And there was goal/ basketball net play area
And the chestnut cases
Slow walking brings a focus and appreciation to what is around us. We can feel happier in our selves and our environment. It heightens awareness of our senses and adds an excitement to our moment-by-moment experience. But what I really like is I when I find it having a longer and more noticeable impact on the rest of my day. After slow walking this morning and without planning to, I was just aware of the fall of my feet on the kitchen lino and later on the sight of a female blackbird shuffling on the garden fence.
Slow walking enables us to better watch both our thoughts and people whistle past us. We can probably see ourselves in those figures which also means we can have more empathy for other people’s packed and stress-filled lives as well as our own. It is the pausing and deliberate deceleration that allows awareness and mindfulness to arise. Mindfulness is there always, but we have allowed it to become buried under all those other thoughts raking over our past or planning our futures. Slow walking can help us reconnect with our own experience in this moment especially if it is combined with a regular formal practice of mindfulness. This in turn can bring contentment, a feeling of gratitude for what we have and more empathy and compassion for our fellow human beings.