Making the practice your own
Some of my students find that they want to do the walking meditation in a slightly different way from the method that I outline on the site and on the CD.
Some want to spend longer being aware of their emotions, while others want to pay more
attention to the world around them, especially when in the country.
Some want to repeat a phrase of affirmation, or bear in mind a Buddhist teaching such as impermanence as they walk. I think it’s an excellent sign when students want to adapt the practice in this way.
Usually, my advice here is to make the walking meditation practice your own. There are no set stages in this practice. You can do it in your own way. I would recommend always starting with awareness of your body, but you should make the practice yours and shape it so that it fits your needs.
Others of my students have adapted the principles of walking meditation practice by applying it to running, cycling, skateboarding, rollerblading, and even to playing rugby. I’m always very pleased when I hear how students have creatively applied the principles of meditation to other activities that are important to them.
Two really interesting examples have been to do with hiking and playing rugby. In both cases, the students concerned have been in very demanding physical situations, where ordinarily they might have found themselves getting into quite negative states of mind.
Hiking can be pretty tough going, especially when the weather gets bad and you feel exhausted. One of my students related how she just kept letting go of negative thoughts as she hiked, and chose instead to simply be aware of her physical experience. Her usual tendency would have been to wallow in self-pity as she puffed her way up a steep incline, but through practicing mindfulness, she managed to stay in a balanced and positive frame of mind, even although her body was aching.
My rugby-playing student (also a woman) talked about how she would be in the last fifteen minutes of a match. She would be physically exhausted and emotionally drained at this point in the game. Usually she’d think of nothing but how much she wanted the game to be over. But through practicing “being in the moment” and simply being aware of her experience, she managed to deeply enjoy finishing her matches – even in the moments when she’d be lying in the mud with someone standing on her head! She’s obviously made of sterner stuff than I am!
Making the practice your own in this way allows you more flexibility. You can then do walking meditation for two minutes while walking from one office to another, or you can practice walking meditation for four hours during a hike in the country.
You can even adapt the walking meditation so that you practice mindfulness while running, and it’s possible to do a sort of cycling meditation as well. A friend of mine who is paraplegic does “walking meditation” in his wheelchair.
Once you make the walking meditation practice your own, it becomes a very flexible and useful tool.