Many of my clients are finding that today's stresses are causing them to feel at times overwhelmed and despondent. A major part of these feelings is the lack of energy or motivation to get out of bed, to do what needs to be done without procrastinating or giving in to the feeling that there’s no point in taking action. To remedy torpor and depression, you have to experience the vital life force that sharpens the mind and focuses the awareness like a laser beam. The traditional Buddhist walking meditation focuses on the slow process of putting one foot in front of the other and being mindful of the shifting sensations as you propel yourself forward. In the following variation on a walking meditation, I’ve expanded the original exercise to encourage a reconnection with a sense of vitality and movement in the heart, lungs, and circulatory system.
Find a place where you can walk that has minimal distractions so you can focus on your breathing and pay attention to what’s going on inside of you. You might walk on a bike path or an indoor track, your living room floor, or even in an empty stairwell at the office. If you’re going to walk out in nature, choose a grassy meadow or empty beach or path where you’re unlikely to encounter many other people. Be sure to wear your most comfortable walking shoes and dress in clothing that will allow you to move easily. Remain silent throughout your walk, which should take at least ten minutes.
As you begin your walk, focus on your breath, mentally saying “in” on the inhale and “out” on the exhale. In a few minutes, refocus your awareness on your body. Feel your heel making contact with the ground. Feel your foot rolling forward and your weight shifting. Feel the ball of your foot pressing downward and the release of pressure as you roll off your toes and shift your weight to the heel of your other foot. Walk slowly so that you can be fully aware of these sensations you normally would ignore
After a time, shift your awareness to your breathing and the feeling of oxygen coming into your lungs, being pumped through your heart and bloodstream, and reaching all the cells in your body. Feel the activity in your body at a cellular level, as each cell drinks in oxygen and your blood rushes to carry it to every cell in your brain, fingertips, chest, groin, thighs, calves, and toes. Feel your muscles strengthened by this oxygen. Feel your life force traveling through you, pushing you, propelling the blood through your veins and arteries. Feel your heart pumping steadily and reliably. Be aware of how the oxygen outside of you, always available to you, enters your body and surges through your organs and blood, mingling with your own life force.
Because sleeping mind can cause you to become isolated and begin generating unwholesome thoughts and feelings of loneliness, it can be helpful to do the vitality meditation with a friend or lover in order to feel a sense of support and connectedness. Walk together in silence.
Ronald Alexander, PhD is a leadership consultant, psychotherapist, international trainer, and the Executive Director of the OpenMind Training Institute, a leading edge organization that offers personal and professional training programs in mind-body therapies, transformational leadership, and mindfulness. He is the author of the widely acclaimed book Wise Mind, Open Mind: Finding Purpose and Meaning in Times of Crisi... that provides practical and innovative applications to help us through today’s challenging times and upon which this article is based. To learn more about mindfulness visit www.RonaldAlexander.com.