The Secret of Resilience
A rooted connection between mind, body, and spirit helps develop mental, emotional, and physical resilience. The ability to weather the ups and downs of life is essential for everyone. Each individual has their own set of coping skills, which is unique to their personality, their history, and the demands of their life. One thing people who are mentally and emotionally resilient have in common is a multi-level awareness. They understand how their behaviors reflect their innermost beliefs, and their ear is finely tuned to their internal thoughts and feelings. They understand how to simultaneously observe themselves and listen to themselves.
Some people are born with this quality; others are not. If you have trouble listening to and honoring your thoughts and feelings, and are challenged by observing your behavior with perspective and detachment, don’t worry: these are skills you can learn through the practice of meditation.
Don’t run away just because I said the “M” word! Read on; the kind of meditation I’m talking about might be something new to you.
When most people think about meditation techniques, they think of someone perched on a small cushion, completely still, holding the lotus position while incense smoke wafts across the room and nature music plays softly in the background. That’s one type of meditation, to be sure, but today we’re going to talk about something else: moving meditation. We’re going to delve into the concept of mindfulness-in-action.
Walking meditation is a wonderful introduction to meditative practice for people who might not want to sit still or who struggle with quieting their mind when just sitting and breathing. Walking meditation gives access to a mindful, meditative state by taking advantage of the natural rhythms and soothing nature of an activity that is, more often than not, completely mindless.
How to do it:
The first step—the first intention, to use a common term from the world of mindfulness—is to become the observer. As you begin your walk, bring your attention to your breath. Observe the inhalation and the exhalation. Notice the length of both; count them if you like. Observe when and if the mind begins to wander. If it does, simply bring your attention back to the breath. Then continue breathing and observing.
The next step, after you’ve established yourself as observer-in-action, is to get in touch with the five senses. Our bodies receive information through sight, hearing, touch, smell, and taste. When you narrow your focus to your five senses, you ground yourself in the now and guarantee that you’re paying attention to the present moment.
Note: At first blush, it might seem like taste won’t play a part in walking meditation; however, pay close attentions when you smell something—there may be an associated taste, even if it’s just a hint.
Bring your attention to how your body feels as you walk. Notice how each foot hits the ground. Notice the air on the skin, hands, and face. Notice without mental commentary and without judgment. Be the observer.
Next, become aware of everything you can see. Observe with your eyes, which as we all know, are truly the portals to you soul. Again, no mental commentary. Don’t ponder or analyze what you see. Just be the observer.
Now, bring your attention to what you can hear. Use your ears. Listen carefully. Do you hear gentle, peaceful noises, or do you hear loud, distracting, unpleasant noises? Remember—both peaceful and unpleasant are words that carry judgment and thought. Drop all that. If a sound is unpleasant, simply let it be. Allow it to enter, pass through you, then move on to the next sound you hear.
Next, pay attention to the smells around you. Observe with your nose. Certain smells with evoke certain memories. Be open. Notice a smell, then let it go. Continue to observe new smells. No commentary, no judgment. Simply observe.
Spend two to three minutes on each sense, then think about bringing your ten-minute session to a close. Come to a stop gently and smoothly. Before you sit down, notice what it feels like to stand. Experience yourself standing. No longer in motion—just be there, standing still. If you went for a walk around your neighborhood and you’re back at home, don’t turn on the TV, don’t start doing dishes, don’t check your phone, and don’t pop open your laptop. Be still for a moment. Shift your awareness back to your breath. Slow, deep, steady. Allow it to do its work on your parasympathetic nervous system. Inhale deep, then experience the magic of an extended exhalation. Feel the connection to the world around you. Acknowledge your awakening mindfulness. Observe, for observation is mindful awareness. Experience the independently nurtured connection you created by taking a mindful walk.
Feel the unity of mind, body and spirit.
Guess what? If you followed the directions above—you’ve done it. You successfully mediated.
You’ve discovered moving meditation; you’ve experienced mindfulness-in-action. You did it through the act of observing, feeling, and listening.
Next step: do it every day. You’ll be amazed how much your life will change for the better.
Be sure to also check out our article on Mindful Cycling.