A Year of Mindfulness – 14 – Walking

Photo by Dmitry Schemelev on Unsplash

And before we knew it we’re at week 14 of the mindfulness challenge. Time goes fast when you’re having fun in quarantine!

This week’s challenge was to take 15 minutes (or however long my day allows – which let’s face it, with no commute to work is a lot longer nowadays!) and walk somewhere alone, remaining silent throughout. I had to follow the phases outlined on the guidance card which consisted of:

  • focusing on the physical sensations of walking – when your mind wanders bring it back to the physical activity
  • taking in the various sights smells and sounds of each thing that captures your attention, and considering the thoughts or feelings you experience as a result
  • returning attention to physical sensations and slowing down gently to a halt to experience standing still at the end of your walk before returning to your daily activity.

I liked the idea of this challenge because it’s really what I do anyway, to an extent. I don’t usually focus on the physical sensations (other than when I get out of breath walking up a hill and regret getting another takeaway the weekend just gone but knowing deep down I’ll still get another this weekend), or I don’t ever stand still on the middle of my driveway at the end of a walk, as it just feels a bit odd. But I do take in the sights, sounds and smells around me and am present when I walk.

Because of this, I decided to keep going as I was really. I didn’t attempt a silent walk, because I like to talk to Riley when I’m walking and I wouldn’t want her to think something was up. Riley is my dog by the way, so of course I don’t have full-blown conversations with her – don’t worry I’ve not gone crazy in lockdown just yet. But I like to talk to her and ask her if she’s OK, ask her if she’s having a nice time, tell her she’s a good girl, ask her where we should go next – that sort of thing. So actually, I kind of do have conversations with her – just one-sided ones. Maybe I have gone crazy in lockdown.

So this week I continued my walks as normal just being a little more mindful about the physical sensations of walking. My friend told me recently that she felt like her body was seizing up due to a lack of exercise. Her partner has a serious health condition and compromised immune system so has to stay indoors through all this, and as such, she has to as well. She loves exercising and is sad that she can’t get out, but the roads around her house are just too busy with people right now. It made me feel more grateful for my ability to get out and walk in fresh air and space with my dog, and I vowed that I would push myself to do so, even when I couldn’t be bothered that day (admittedly, this is fairly often!). Before you think I’m cruel for considering not walking my dog, she’d probably thank me for it to be honest, she’d much rather play with a ball like she does all day every day right now. She’s absolutely in her element with us working from home, I’ve never seen her so tired.

So I haven’t really learnt anything this week but I wanted to share one tip. You may read this and think ‘well that’s obvious’, and really, it is. But bizarrely, it wasn’t obvious to me until a few months ago. As a general rule, I don’t go on my phone anymore whilst out walking. I might get it out to take a photograph and add to my collection of thirty billion photos of nature and my dog that I never look at after taking, but I don’t interact with it. I have contemplated not taking it at all, but I just can’t detach from the fear that I might get attacked in the depths of Reddish Vale, and it’s just not worth the risk. But by not interacting with your phone, you force yourself to observe nature and the natural world is beautiful when you look around. I walk in the sun, rain, warmth and cold, and I still feel good after it because it is cathartic to be alone with your thoughts in the present moment. This is the essence of mindfulness, and I’d encourage you to have a go. Try and walk – even just for ten minutes – without looking at your phone. If you feel tempted to take your phone out, resist the urge. If you take your phone out of your pocket through habit, simply put it away as soon as you realise. You’ll be surprised how quick it catches on and how much something as simple as a walk outside can change your entire mindset and day. Told you – obvious, yet so good!

See you next week!

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