Within the core teachings of mindfulness we find mindfulness of movement which is illustrated in what we describe as kinhin or mindful walking.
I remember receiving traumatic news some 15 years ago and how that news impacted on me to the point of taking flight from my senses as I defended myself from the pain that the news brought to me.
It’s amazing how our bodies take care of us through the fight, flight, freeze and please response. One thing that I learned many years ago and is that the body keeps the score.
Unlike our animal friends, we tend to hold on to the stress of trauma compared to the likes of a zebra which, grazing on the grasses of the Serengeti, becomes aware of being stalked by a lion. As soon as the zebra is alerted to the danger he goes into the fight, flight response. Knowing that he cannot take on a lion he takes flight instead.
When he realises the threat has gone, he stops and gives himself a good shake before returning to graze.
He’s not thinking that the lion has phoned his lion pride to get him when he starts grazing again. He knows that the threat has gone and the important thing that he does is he de-stresses himself by giving himself a good shake.
We however tend to hold on to the stress and this gets trapped in what’s referred to as the muscle memory of our bodies. The adrenaline and cortisol is held and this is not good for us in the long term.
Through mindfulness practice we discover that we can release this stress through kinhin or walking meditation.
This exercise can be carried out both inside and outside the home and both have their benefits in alleviating stress.
With the weather being glorious at the moment I would suggest that we practice outside to catch the rich vitamin D that the sun shines on us.
Begin by standing upright, shoulders relaxed and chest open, not too tight and not too loose. Take a moment to sense the ground beneath your feet; notice how the ground supports your body. Now bring your attention to your breath and allow your breath to take centre stage, without judging, analysing or interpreting, notice how you breathe, no right way no wrong way. Notice the quality of your breath.
Allow your shoulders to relax, now bring your attention to your left foot and gently peel your foot from heel to toes off the ground as though the ground was velcro and the soles of your feet were velcro.
Now shift your attention to your right foot and once again lift your right foot from heel to toes allowing your breath to inform the speed of the movement of your foot, again there’s no right way and no wrong way, moving with your breath.
As you walk bring your attention to sound, noticing sounds without judging. A sound is a sound, nothing special and if your attention wanders gently return to sound, continue this practice for a few minutes.
Now bring your attention to sight, notice what you see and again without judging or analysing, explore your sight scape with your eyes and if your attention wanders, gently return to sight, continue this practice for few minutes.
As our bodies move, our thoughts also shift. That is the benefit of mindful walking: We can, through moving a muscle, move a thought.
Try it. The proof is in the practice. As my granny would say, go for a walk, son, and clear your head.
And, along with the surge in the popularity of mindfulness techniques in the general population, mindful walking has received considerably more research attention in the last 10 years.
A 2016 study exploring the impact of mindful walking over multiple days noted improvements in mood and mindfulness skills.
And more specifically, the practice reduced depression, anxiety, stress, and brooding.