The Practice of Attentive Walking

Woman attentive walking in the forest

Attentive walking is a simple practice which combines exercise and awareness. Taking the time to walk in this way on a daily basis will help you become more acquainted with your body and senses.

Individuals who are currently experiencing physical difficulties, overcoming illness, or in recovery after medical treatment may find attentive walking an invaluable practice to help find peace and calm in their body once again.

How to Practice Attentive Walking

Attentive walking can be done anywhere and at any time of day. Although it is helpful to set aside a special time slot for your practice, it is not necessary. You can do attentive walking on your way to work or during a lunch break, just remember that it is not about reaching a destination. You can make a walk to your destination into an attentive walking practice as long as you remember the focus is to slow down and be present.

It is recommended to walk for 20 minutes. If you feel fatigued, start with what you can do – even if it is only a few minutes; you will gradually be able to increase the amount of time you can walk continuously.

It is best if you can walk outside as often as possible because variations in weather will change your experience. If it is too hot, cold, or wet outside don’t drop your practice. You can still practice attentive walking at an indoor track or a shopping centre.

The purpose of attentive walking is not to work up a sweat or exert a huge amount of effort; think of attentive walking as movement rather than exercise. The goal is to be fully present in your body and in your surroundings. Notice what is within you and around you without judging whether it is pleasant to you or not, just observe and take in as much as you can.

Attentive walking helps build self-awareness. Your focus during attentive walking is to pay attention to who you are in that moment. It is best to walk alone so you can remain focused on what is happening within you and around you.

Tips to Stay Present While Walking

1. Pay attention to how your body moves through space.

  • Feel your arms move through the air. Do they swing freely or do they feel constricted?
  • Observe the length of your stride. Is it short or long? Is it the same on both sides?
  • Notice how your hips and knees shift as you walk.
  • Feel how your feet hit the ground. Do you land on on your heels or the balls of feet? Is your landing hard or gentle?

2. Note your energy level. Are you feeling energized or tired?

3. Notice any other sensations in your body; is there pain, aches, nausea, tingling, fatigue, pleasure?

4. Notice your breath. Are you breathing from your chest or your belly? Is it deep or shallow? Relaxed or constricted?

5. Observe your mind. Is it calm or agitated? You may notice that your mind may drift to any concerns you may. It is normal to feel like you should work out issues or concerns during this time, but the purpose of attentive walking is not to solve anything; the purpose is to be in the present moment. If any of your current difficulties arise, acknowledge them and let them go.

6. Notice your environment. What are the sights, smells, and sounds around you? If you are in a forest you may notice the way the light filters through the trees or the smell of the damp earth. If you are in the city you may notice smells from a café or the sounds of traffic. Wherever you are, focus on the details – the texture of the trees, the colours of the flowers in a garden,  or the finishings on a house. Notice the temperature of the air and if you can feel the sun or the wind on your skin.

Like this mindful walking practice? Then you will love this Walking Meditation.

Attentive Walking instructions modified from: Picking Up the Pieces: Moving Forward after Surviving Cancer

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