“I’m going for a walk to clear my head.” How often have you said or heard that expression? And frequently on the walk, just the opposite happens. The mind continues churning on the very worries or concerns, or plans or memories, that prompted the change of scenery.
Good in theory, but in reality the scenery hasn’t changed much despite your different location. The clutter you sought to escape follows you. The new landscape passes by, without even seeing it.
Intuitively we know that clearing the head will ease us, allow access to more clarity. Yet the very notion of doing it intentionally brings on the well-worn narrative: “I can’t possibly quiet my mind.” The chaos of the world today can make it seem even more impossible.
Present-day circumstances make this the perfect moment to shift that narrative to a more empowering one. While the purpose of the mind is to create thoughts, there is a deeper intelligence within that allows us to actively choose where we will place our attention. Mothers and caregivers know this choice well, when faced with a child who needs immediate attention. All else is put aside to focus on their loved one.
While it may seem an intuitive process to refocus attention on a needy other, it also proves that the skills are already present to shift focus when it relates to your own needs, as well.
Walking meditation offers a unique opportunity to flip the switch, to reset the narrative you have running in your mind about calming your thoughts. Having already recognized the need to take a walk, clear your head, a little guidance and support will aid the process of shifting focus.
The very act of walking gives a physical structure to the practice, as well as multiple other things on which to focus. Your body and senses become tools, objects for anchoring your awareness in your experience rather than in your thoughts.
Present moment awareness then simply becomes about placing attention on the sensations as they occur. What do you feel, smell, taste, hear or see as you are walking? Notice that instead of your mental chatter.
By paying attention to your physical movement and the environment around you, the preoccupations of the mind no longer blind you to the experience you are living. When a thought reaches out and grabs your attention, you simply redirect attention back to a body-felt sensation. Then begin the sensory scan once more.
To paraphrase renowned meditation teacher, Sharon Salzberg: the heart of the practice is in the moment of redirect. When you notice your mind becoming active, make the conscious choice to refocus your attention back to your senses.
And in this moment of being in your present experience, you open the door to feeling the clarity that was your original intent. Don’t be surprised when you find yourself in a more positive place, with everything you need right now – including a clearer head.
Feel the benefits of a clearer head immediately by trying our new Walking Meditation video. Simply listen as you walk, one time through the 12-minute practice, or on repeat for as long as you are walking.
And find out more about immersive adventures in walking meditation in the new year to come.