Navigating Epilepsy: The Road Ahead

mindful walking….

iStock_000035076680SmallIn the past I have written about the impact that mindfulness can have on one’s mood, specifically when dealing with a chronic illness. This month I decided to provide a concrete example of how almost anyone can practice mindfulness on a daily basis. As the heat of August continues to grow it may not be realistic to think that many will get out and exercise or enjoy the beauty outdoors, but walking is something that most of us do daily-so why not make it good for both your body and your mind?

Below is an exercise in walking meditation from the mindfulness experts at Headspace.
Try it out — it will help you become present and connect to what is happening in the here and now.
1. As you begin to walk, notice how the body feels. Does it feel heavy or light, stiff or relaxed? Don’t rush to answer the question, but take a few seconds to become aware of your posture and the way you’re carrying yourself.
2. Without trying to change the way you’re walking, simply observe how it feels. Just take a moment to observe it, to notice it. It’s quite common to feel self-conscious when you do this, but the feeling usually passes quickly.
3. While you won’t need to think about the process of walking, you will need to be aware of what’s going on around you, so take care to notice cars, other people, road signals and the like as you’re doing the exercise.
4. Begin by noticing what you see going on around you. It might be people walking past, shop window displays, cars, advertisements and all the other things you’d expect to see around you. Notice the colors and shapes, the movement and perhaps the stillness too. There’s no need to actually think about what you’re seeing – simply to see it and acknowledge it is enough. Take about thirty seconds to do this.
5. Then turn your attention to sounds – what can you hear? Without getting caught up in thinking about the objects of sound, just take a moment to be aware of them, as though they are just coming and going in your field of awareness. Again, take about thirty seconds to do this.
6. Next turn your attention to smells for thirty seconds or so, some of which may be pleasant while others might be positively unpleasant. Notice how the mind habitually wants to create a story out of each of the smells, how it reminds you of somewhere, something or someone.
7. Finally, make a point of noticing any physical sensations or feelings. Perhaps it’s the feeling of warm sunshine, cool rain or a cold breeze. Perhaps it’s the sensation of the soles of the feet touching the ground with each step, or the weight of the arms swinging at your side. The intention is to simply acknowledge the sensations for thirty seconds or so, without feeling the need to get involved in thinking about the feelings.
8. As you continue to walk, don’t try to prevent any of these things from entering your field of awareness – simply notice as they come and go, how one thing is constantly being replaced by the next.
9. After a minute or two, gently shift your attention to the sensation of movement in the body. Notice how the weight shifts from the right side to the left side and then back again, usually in quite a steady rhythm. Try to avoid artificially adjusting your speed or trying to walk at a certain pace. Instead, observe the way you walk and the rhythm you’ve become accustomed to. It may well be that as a result of doing this exercise you choose to walk a little more slowly in future.
10. Use the rhythm of the walking, the physical sensation of the soles of the feet touching the ground, as your base of awareness, a place you can mentally come back to once you realise the mind has wandered off. This is the equivalent of the rising and falling sensation of the breath when you do your sitting meditation.
11. There’s no need to focus so intently that you start to exclude everything around you. In fact, be open to things happening around you and, when you know the mind has wandered off, just gently bring the attention back to the movement of the body and the sensation of the soles of the feet striking the ground each time.
12. Now because you’ll be more present, more aware, it’s quite likely that your mental habits (your usual ways of thinking) will also become more apparent. Usually, we’re so caught up in the thoughts themselves, that we hardly notice our reactions to all these things. For example, how do you feel when the rhythm is broken by a red pedestrian light, and you are forced to stand and wait to resume walking? Is there a feeling of impatience, of wanting to move, to get on? Do you find yourself jockeying for position with other people? Or perhaps you might feel a sense of relief at the opportunity of being able to rest for a few seconds.

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