Nearly everybody walks, some of us further than others. Recent studies and reports are buzzing about how walking may reduce your risk of type II diabetes and even help reverse it, this is great news for those concerned with such a risk, but what about the rest of the population – what can walking do for us? Many traditions and spiritual seekers have discovered there is more to walking than just putting one step in front of the other, or should I say, there isn’t more to it than that…there’s a secret here. Is there a way to walk your way from the mundane into the magical?
No doubt, regular walking is great exercise. Walking your dog is a common practice among pet owners and is a sweet way to get your program on while helping out your furry friend. Many of us live close enough to coffee shops and stores that we stroll instead of drive to our favorite spot. But how many of us walk with no ulterior motive, simply just to walk? Even more, how many of us notice and can remain conscious of, every step we take?
Walking has long been used as a meditation practice as it helps to engage the body and senses, therefore freeing up the mind to simply be – and experience deeper inner states of awareness. When practiced as a meditation, the walking ought not to be combined with any goal or exercise agenda, just walk to walk. It is suggested by Buddhist, Taoist and other meditation ‘experts’ to practice your walking meditation for at least 20 minutes per day. It was in fact the Buddha himself who first recommended and practiced walking meditation. When you do your walk, think of nothing else and notice the way your body feels in motion, your feet upon the ground, the smell in the air, the wind on your face.
It is explained that walking meditations allow one to contact all of the 4 elements: earth, fire, air and earth, which assists us in balancing the body systems and healing. When walking, awareness of the foot lifting and becoming lighter is the fire element at work, that lightening sensation. Placing the foot again on the ground, one notices a heaviness, associated with the water element, something of an ‘oozing’ sensation. And as the foot finds solidity – the earth element becomes activated within – ones grounding, stabilizing force. In movement to the next foot, the air element is noticed, and therefore the cycle again repeats taking the practitioner mindfully through the elements again and again: fire, water, earth, air…repeat. Why is it important or beneficial to become aware of these elements at work? Fire, water, earth and air are all around us and within us, they make up our beings and our experiences. By tuning into them with the simple act of walking, we can learn to tune into them inside and in other ways.
Many traditions emphasize the importance of the elements and even associate different body processes, organs, moods and life cycles with one of them. In astrology, planets are associated with the one of the 4 elements and our resonance with them is said to affect not only our health, but our state of mind, emotional states and growth patterns. This month, for example, we are in the airy sign of Gemini – a mental sign that thrives on communication and wisdom. Come the 20th, we enter the watery sign of Cancer as we enter the Summer Solstice. Water energy is closely associated with the emotions and people born under that sign tend to be more nurturing. As we head into the peak of summer and the heat, the fire element turns on with Leo and then earthy Virgo takes us into the grounding force of fall where we all get to land after flying so high in the summer months. The cycle then repeats 3 more times throughout the calendar year. Walking with awareness can tune us into the elements expressing moment to moment, thus allowing us greater access to the larger cycles at work.
Walking is a powerful way to deepen our awareness of self. Simply becoming more conscious of each step as you walk can sharpen inner focus, increase presence and draw previously dispersed energy back to us for more effective use. Walking for the sake of walking is a great way to clear the mind and find inner harmony and peace – who couldn’t use a bit of that in today’s world? By consciously walking, we are inviting the magical back into our lives and letting it take it’s place where once sat the mundane. When we can walk with awareness and joy, we can begin to do other simple tasks with the same mind set. Soon, all of our actions will be filled with more attention, more power, more joy and more love for the act. You see, it seems that life is a series of mundane tasks occasionally highlighted by peak experiences, inspirations and deep insights. The truth is, all of life can be magical and extraordinary if we allow it. Walking meditation is an easy way to start training the body and mind to make life more meaningful in every way.
Written by: Stasia Bliss