First, find a level place to walk. Running tracks at schools are great; if none is handy, a paved or level dirt path is suitable; avoid rough terrain or busy locations full of distraction. Sorry, but leave the dog at home! It’s tempting to want to multi-task and walk Fido at the same time, but you can’t focus on walking when your attention is on the dog.
Before you begin, establish awareness of your body and your environment by noticing how you are standing – your posture, whether your eyes are ahead or downcast, whether you feel energetic (tall) or lethargic (slumped). What is the environment like? How is the temperature? What do you see, smell and hear? Is there a breeze? Are there clouds or bright sunshine? Take a few deep cleansing, relaxing breaths, and set your intention to become mindful of the experience of walking by saying, “walking!”
Begin walking. Focus your awareness only the sole of each foot and how it interacts with the ground; focus intently on how it feels to push off the ground, lift the foot, move it forward and step back onto the ground. When your attention wanders, gently bring it back, just like when you focus on the breath during sitting meditation. Let your mind’s chatter be nothing more than background noise and stay focused on the steps.
If you have trouble quieting the mind, stop walking, and mentally say, “thinking!” Pause for a moment, set the intention again: “walking!” Then, begin walking again. Don’t overdo this – it can get frustrating if your mind is particularly noisy. If that happens, become aware of your thoughts while you walk, don’t attach to them and just observe. Soon the chatter will quiet down and you’ll be able to refocus on walking.
Start with 15 minutes and work up to longer periods as your ability to hold your attention increases. Or, you can do walking meditation for 15-30 minutes and follow it up with a sitting meditation. This will bring balance into your practice. You can alternate walking and sitting meditation from day to day to enhance your present-awareness and keep your practice fresh and to develop your abilities.