Vacations give us the opportunity to get lost in natural settings, get out of our routines and connect with nature. But if our minds are distracted, elsewhere or full of worries, it is easy to understand that we will not get all the beneficial effects that natural environments produce.
To establish that positive connection with nature (and with ourselves) that improves our emotional and physical states, we can use simple and effective mindfulness practices, such as mindfull walking.
Mindful meditative walking is the exercise that makes walking a spiritual gesture and provides a deep sense of peace and inner order.
In both Zen and Western monastic traditions, the meditative march occupies a vital place. When doing meditation practices, many people are surprised to find that besides the iconic sit-down position, the meditative walk represents a whole different approach to mindfulness.
Is it possible to meditate while walking?
Meditation refers to the state of mind that the person who meditates reaches through the essentiality of opening internally to connect inside and outside. Meditation is not an intellectual understanding of the world; it is an experience.
There are some basic techniques for meditation that have proven their effectiveness for centuries, accompanying thousands of people on this path of openness to the essential.
We can meditate in various ways: sitting, standing, performing daily life tasks, and definitely while walking in nature…
The meditative walk can be done alone or in a group. When you are meditating with the support of a group, walking among more people is a special moment in which each person walks for and by himself and, at the same time, enters a group rhythm. It is a privileged moment of reunion.
Benefits of the meditative march
The meditative walk helps to mobilize the limbs that could have become stiff during sitting meditation, regenerates energy and prevents circulatory problems. But meditative walking is much more than a complement to sitting meditation. It is another meditation technique in itself.
The verticality –interpreted as a symbol of the contact between heaven and earth–, the rhythm of walking, silence, and slowness lead the practitioner to a state of deep mental tranquillity that favours experiences of a spiritual nature.
The meditative walk is helpful for anyone who wants to do a simple, pleasant, healthy and spiritual exercise. It has no age limits, nor does it require any particular physical condition.
It is a transformation exercise since practising consciously and regularly helps bring out the best in ourselves. But walking can go even more profound. It can become an exercise of personal growth and even a spiritual experience.
Who has not ever gone out for a walk to “clarify ideas”? Aristotle and his disciples walked while he gave them his philosophical speeches (peripatetic school), and it is known that the human brain underwent its most significant transformations when our species adopted the upright posture.
In addition to the feeling of fullness and well-being experienced when walking meditatively, its practice promotes health at all levels:
- The journal NeuroReport published an MIT study according to which people who meditated at least six hours a week had increased volume in areas of the cerebral cortex associated with attention, decision-making and memory.
- Scientists have found that meditation creates permanent neuronal and physiological changes that develop less anxious or depressed temperaments. Unifying the brain, mind, and body makes it easier to face situations of stress and uncertainty.
- Daily meditation can reduce the risk of heart attacks by improving your ability to relax and the immune system seems to be strengthened as well.
- Walking meditation helps maintain a good muscle tone, and clean and fresh air guarantees that our muscles and brain are well oxygenated.