Walking around holy wells and up sacred mountains was and is an important part of pre-Christian and Christian traditions in Ireland. Walking is a form of intentional prayer, a sacrifice of movement, a dedication of energy. Pilgrimages the world over in all faiths demand/require movement, the physicality of journeying mirroring the desire for spiritual movement, echoing a spiritual or inner journey. We move to change. So walks with chants, prayers, mantras or the intent to exude an energy exchange with the world or the divine are great to partake in too. It does have to be up the mountain or require specialist footwear, it can be around the block or just across the way.
A walking meditation can be nothing more than walking consciously – being aware to the movement of your body, connecting with the now of your steps. This is not a deliberately slowed pace walk (although that too is good as way of intentionally taking in the views and sounds of your journey) it is just a walk, at any pace but mindfully exercised. The connection with the action of walking as a way to become present is pleasant, unarduous and easy to make part of your routine.
Simply as you walk become aware of your body in movement, notice how your feet move you on, notice and pay attention to your feet touching and leaving the ground – thoughts may arise but simply come back to your movement, to your feet touching and leaving the ground.
Walking is a way to catch up on thoughts for many people, often at a fitness pace or for others to just amble along – to meander with the mind meandering is respite of its own. We have our patterns built up over years, so conscious walking can be harder than you think, or to master for more than a short distance. But with practice comes mastery and soon you can consciously walk around the block or through a park or along the seashore– alive in every moment of it.
Some utilise the practice of following one’s breath while walking and bring to their consciousness the single thought/realisation ‘I am walking’ – that technique is good too. However you do it, whichever method works for you, it is about being in the moment of it – the discipline of it, the awe-inspiration of it or the dedication to have a moment to your self – that too is prayer.
The intent to walk mindfully and the returning to the journey, following your progression not your thoughts is mindful walking. Awareness of walking is a walking meditation. Maybe you like to go for strolls or are more active with long walks or hill walking – you can elect to make part of the experience a walking meditation, as little as five minutes or as much as 50%. Your call. But soon, just as those neural connections are made and strengthened by what you do and how you do, you will get an enhanced experience of the entire walk. You will find fulfilment – that’s the true enlightenment of the now.