HOW WALKING WITH INTENTION CAN HELP YOU AID YOUR MEDITATION PRACTICE: A GUEST POST BY KC ORCUTT
When I first started experimenting with meditation, I would find myself listening to the whole duration of an hourlong YouTube video and wondering why I was still wide awake after it ended. Then I'd press play again and either get the same result or find myself waking up, fully rested, seven hours later. For me, sleep meditations can be hit or miss, but the practice has served as an introduction to welcoming the act of bringing intention into my daily life. On the sleeping tip, I have struggled with irregular sleep patterns my whole life (hashtag Gemini problems) and figured I may as well try my hand at meditating as a method to help me get out of my head, especially late at night. I've found it to be helpful, even when I don't feel like I'm necessarily "good" at it.
While my own personal journey with meditation has yielded some frustration, namely in that I still find it difficult sometimes to let myself get lost in the moment and clear out the noise in my head, I have learned a very important lesson I'd like to share: If you can achieve a moment or two of being in a state of consciousness that is different than your normal waking state, you have succeeded.
It doesn't matter if it takes you one or two hours to obtain one or two minutes of that feeling of silencing your mind and looking inward, sometimes that's just how it goes. It's also not a game with a linear mission at the end; it's a continued practice. One that is both a science and an art. The habitual process of training your mind to think deeply and recenter your focus has been scientifically proven to yield a plethora of benefits including reduced stress, improved emotional health, an enhanced self-awareness and increased sleep quality. One of the most popular benefits, and perhaps one I can't stress enough, meditation helps produce a better outlook on one's day-to-day life. Once you're open to it and push past any skepticism or resistance, meditation can help you to feel better. It's as simple as that.
As I began to learn more, both in my own experiences and as someone interested in reading about the age-old subject of mindfulness, I also came to learn that there are many different methods and forms of meditation. It's not just about formally sitting crosslegged in a quiet room while burning incense or whatever preconceived notion you may have surrounding the traditions of meditation.
For me personally, while my before bed meditation time has proven to be helpful, sometimes I simply prefer to fall asleep to Law and Order: SVU. Just ask any roommate I've ever had. With that in mind, my second favorite go-to is what I consider to be a walking mediation. Have you ever walked aimlessly for 15 minutes and realized you lost track of time, or even walked past your destination? The act of getting lost in your head and detaching from worry is a form of meditation to me, and one that I highly recommend.
This past year, I begun to change my lifestyle habits, beginning with a diet that is designed to aid in more mindful eating habits and yield tangible results. It hasn't been an easy process but meditation has undeniably helped me to keep moving and working towards my goals. An integral part of my weight loss was tied closely to walking in a way that I never would have imagined. It began easily enough; the days I didn't feel like going to the gym, I would at least walk for 20 minutes or more. Soon, a FitBit helped to further encourage my daily walks. (Hey, it's all about what works for you, after all). Walking is something that I think many of us take for granted, myself included, but I will say the act of walking with intention has made a significant impact on my life and has helped positively influence my mindset.
For example, whenever I have a lot of writing work to do, and I'm just not feeling it, sometimes taking a walk is the perfect antidote to combat whatever I'm letting hold myself back. When I start my day with a walking meditation, even if it's just to the store to buy some fresh fruit for breakfast, taking that five minutes to redirect my thinking ends up being much more beneficial than sitting in my bed and staring at my phone until 10am rolls around and I've achieved nothing but cultivate stressful, anxious thoughts. For me, while I understand meditation is a mental practice by definition, the pairing of a simple physical act such as walking helps me to achieve that state of happiness, peace and stillness in ways that to this day still surprise me. Remember, the mind has a mind of its own and sometimes getting out of the house and putting in headphones is the best way to genuinely let yourself get lost in your thoughts and find inner balance and stability. You can start with paying attention to your breathing, by taking a walk, by putting on music or by sitting in silence. There is no right or wrong way to meditate and I welcome you to set aside some time to try it out.
The benefits of a regular meditation practice, in whichever form you gravitate towards, take time to be fully realized; sometimes the most impactful results rest beneath our consciousness and we don't even realize how helpful it can be. Meditation is work--as being a human requires work, energy and effort in general--but it doesn't have to be a difficult task, nor should it be. Emotional calmness, relaxation and inner peace look and feel different for everyone; it is a very personalized journey. It's difficult to free yourself enough to enjoy what it feels like to be fully present in a moment, but start with a walk and see where it lets your mind go. I promise your future self will thank you.