As I’ve discussed in previous columns, meditation is about paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment. Most people assume that in order to do this you have to sit still on the floor in a lotus position for 20-30 minutes.
Many people tell me that they’d love to learn how to meditate but they can’t sit still long enough to learn. The thought of sitting quietly in the same place for 10, 20, or 30 minutes stresses them out just thinking about it. They’d rather walk, run, bike, or swim to deal with their stress and nervous energy.
If that sounds like you, then moving meditation is right up your alley.
Unlike traditional meditation, which is practiced while sitting quietly, moving meditation uses the movements that accompany any repetitive continuous physical activity as the focal point. Walking, running, swimming, bicycling, and cross-country skiing are examples of repetitive, continuous physical activity that typically is sustained for at least twenty minutes and can provide an aerobic training effect as well as a meditative benefit.
Instead of letting your mind focus on other things during your workout, moving meditation uses your body movements and breathing as the focal points of your attention. When you get distracted during your walking or running, you merely note the distraction mentally and then redirect your attention back to your body movements and your breathing and continue for at least 20 minutes.
In my stress management work, I use walking and running to teach moving meditation because they are safe, can be practiced by almost anyone, and can be done both indoors on a treadmill or outdoors.
During walking and running meditation, you focus on the individual components of each step (lifting the leg, bending the knee, stepping forward, heel touching, toe touching, etc.), the process of walking and running (feelings in the feet, legs, back, etc., one’s balance and sensation of movement), and your breathing.
You can use your cadence of footfalls and your breathing pattern to help minimize your distracting thoughts while you focus on what is going on in your legs, feet, and hips as you walk or run. You can count “one, two, three, four” in synch with the beat, time, and rhythm of your steps. You can also determine how many steps you take with each inhalation and exhalation and synchronize them.
For example, I take six steps with each inhalation and six steps with each exhalation when I am walking. When I am running, I take three breaths with every inhalation and three with every exhalation. This helps me keep my thoughts on my breathing and my footfalls rather than the thousand and one other things running around my brain when I walk or run.
Regular practice of walking or running meditation will not only help you release your stress through meditation, but they will also help increase your fitness level if you walk or run at a pace and for a sufficient duration of time to obtain an aerobic training effect.
Walking and running meditation are strategies I use to help people release their stress-related tension and energy in healthy ways. Release is one of my five lines of defense against stress called the Five R’s of Conquering Your Stress.
In my next column, “Stress Buster Tip #6,” I will show you the 11 steps involved in turning any continuous physical activity into a moving meditation. Be sure not to miss it.
For more information on using physical activity to get rid of your stress check out my “Release Your Stress” course on my website: www.drrichblonna.com/courses/courses-for-everyone/the-5-steps-to-conquering-your-stress-home-study-program-release-course/.