I’ve enjoyed walking meditation for years – I just didn’t know that was what I was doing!
I knew that when I walked our dog (especially as he became older and walked more and more slowly), I became hyper-aware of all sorts of sensory details around me, and that I’d often have what seemed like brilliant ideas as to how to solve problems with the story or choreography I was working on.
It was only when I went on a guided hike with Ronna of Eco Yoga Adventures while at a writers’ residency at the Banff Arts Centre that I discovered the concept of walking meditation.
I have to thank Ronna for a wonderful experience and for introducing me to these strategies for entering into the flow of this kind of dynamic meditation.
1. Engage the senses before you start: Ronna had us stand beside the river, listening, tasting, smelling, looking. Think about light, shadows, temperature, movement in front of, behind, to the right and left of you, above and below you.
2. As you walk, soften your focus and be aware of peripheral vision. This means that, rather than having a tight frontal (or vertical) focus on one thing, you widen your focus to become aware of many elements each side of you. As your vision opens to include more possibilities, so does your brain. Check the links below for articles about ways in which peripheral vision helps with relaxation and creativity.
3. Walk very slowly
4. “Sit into a question”: Before we started walking, Ronna posed a question. It was an open question and had nothing to do with my writing. What was totally new for me was the way she suggested using the question: to let it be rather than to try and focus on it or find the answer or work out a response. She suggested we simply “sit into” the question and wait, and listen to whatever might come bubbling up.
Then once you are in a meditative state, I ask questions like “what are you being called to do or be at this time?” Then answers bubble up from a deeper place. Ronna Schneberger, Eco Yoga Adventures
Before the walk, I had felt stressed and unfocused, unable to settle into my residency. I’d even thought of skipping the walk because I couldn’t concentrate!
Afterwards I felt relaxed and very grounded. From then on I had no trouble getting organized with my project and writing.
Now, a couple of months after my Banff experience, I regularly use Ronna’s approach, especially when I feel twitchy or get too knotted up in a problem in a story. As questioning with this openness of spirit does not come naturally to me (I usually want the answer as soon as I have a question!), I find the idea of “sitting in” a question or problem enormously helpful with my writing. It’s not about being passive – you have to remain active and alert – but it shifts the energy towards being open and receiving rather than forcing the information you have. Once I’ve posed my question, I leave it ‘hanging’ and let the experience of the walk take over.
A walking meditation in the city is not the same as along the Hoodoo Trail in Banff, but it turns out to be so interesting in its own way – people rushing past, the snatches of conversation, the smells, the whirr of bicycle wheels, the feel of the sidewalk, the motion in your foot, the roar of a sidewalk snowplough zooming up right behind you…
As for walking and meditating in the snowy woods locally – I’m just waiting for hunting season to be over!
Links for walking meditation:
A Guide to Walking Meditation by Thich Nhat Hanh
How to do walking meditation – WildMind
Links for benefits of using peripheral vision:
Peripheral Viewing: harnessing peripheral vision as a creative tool
Athletic applications, contemporary tunnel vision, intelligence and creativity and peripheral vision, exercises
Energy for Creativity and Pragmatism (peripheral vision and tight focus)
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An interesting concept; never walk the dog the same again, right? 🙂 Very neat.
Thanks for linking to my ‘Power of peripheral vision’ article Susi! That one was aimed at therapists, this one might be more accessible to the general reader: http://coachingleaders.emotional-climate.com/using-peripheral-vision-to-relax/
Thanks for this additional link, Andy. I found the other very useful too.
I like the description of how breathing changes with peripheral vision and how this kind of vision ‘dispels fear’ in your article.