In a previous post, we talked about three techniques for meditating while walking.
In this post we will go deeper into the third technique; walking with awareness.
Walking with Awareness
Awareness is a term used a lot these days and probably means different things to different people. We understand awareness to be a disengagement from distracting thoughts, which leads to a heightened level of sensitivity in ones senses.
Imagine coming across a lovely flower nestled by the side of the trail. You bob down for a closer look, and you become aware of an internal monologue that goes something like this.
“Oh, isn’t that a lovely flower… I love that flower. You know who else likes flowers… Maureen. I must catch up with Maureen… I wonder how her husband Bob is doing after his surgery… That reminds me, I must book an appointment with the dermatologist to get that thing on my shoulder looked at… I guess if I am going over to Dr Booker’s rooms in Coburg, I should visit Jenny at the same time…”
Sound familiar. I think you will agree that it is difficult to notice much detail about the flower with all of these thoughts floating around in your head.
With the practice of awareness we prevent this internal dialogue from taking hold and this allows us to see, touch, smell, hear, taste (and feel?) the flower in a way that is “closer to reality”.
One more thing before we get to the “how” bit…
Awareness V Meditation
It is not particularly useful for us to get into a semantic discussion about the difference between Awareness and Meditation. I am sure the Dalai Lama could write a book on it, but to us everyday hacks, they are two sides to the same coin.
That said, one thing we would like to point out, is that meditation is probably better described as a set of techniques (concentrating on your breath as an example), while awareness is more like a state of being. This state of being is elusive to define, but as per the above, it is a state where we experience sharpened senses. Anyone who has experienced this state, will know what we mean.
While both meditation and awareness are most often associated with a peaceful state, awareness doesn’t have to be. Many elite athletes use awareness techniques before they go into a ring, or hit the field to go knock the heads off their opponents! I am sure you would agree, having heightened senses would be incredibly useful when you have cricket ball hurtling towards you at 150km/hour.
How to Foster Walking with Awareness
Tip One: Start with Meditation
Meditation is often the precursor to awareness. Not always, but meditation is a useful tool to prepare the stage, by reducing the volume of thoughts and hopefully leading to a more peaceful state.
The easiest method of meditating, is to count your breaths while you walk. We suggest counting 5 long and slow breathes in time with your steps. Depending on the terrain, this might be one long in-breath to every 5 steps, followed by a long slow exhalation over 5 steps.
Do this for 5 breathes and then look around at your environment. As soon as you notice that your brain has engaged with your thoughts, return to the walking meditation.
This technique will give you short burst of awareness between meditation practices.
Tip Two: Be aware of you internal monologue, but don’t engage in a conversation with it
Unless you plan on dedicating your life to the practice of mediation, awareness and spirituality, it is likely that you will always be plagued by useless thoughts at inopportune moments. Don’t we all wish we could remember that we need milk when we are in the supermarket, not when we are 5km into a bush walk!
While it is likely that you will always have these thoughts, you can build a resistance to their effect.
The goal is not necessarily to stop the thoughts, but to watch them go by. Some people like the metaphor of a “river of consciousness”. If our thoughts are the flowing river, we would like to be on the side of the river watching, rather than up to our necks.
Just the fact that you are conscious that you are having thoughts, rather than you are your thoughts, will bring a heightened level of awareness.
Tip Three: Walk and be conscious of the sky
A challenging technique, but one of my favourites.
As you walk along, the aim is to have your consciousness rest on the sky. Not the detail of the clouds, or the colour, but conscious of the sky as a whole. It is tricky because we are not focusing on a detail that will easily hold our focus. That said though, even 10-20 second bursts of “sky walking” can elicit beautiful states of calm.
The calm emanates from a sense of grandeur and insignificance. I am not sure why, but there is something really comforting in the feeling (not thought) that we are a tiny speck under this magnificent sky.
Have you got any of your own techniques you can share?
Walking with awareness is hard. Our minds are going constantly being exposed to new things which will want to engage our attention. Yet despite the difficulty, walking with meditation and awareness can bring a huge amount of satisfaction even if the feeling is fleeting.
We would love to continue the conversation in the comments below. Please share any tips in the comments below.