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Walking as an Awareness Practice

Lately I’ve been struck by how long stretches of my walks can fail to register. I suddenly wake up to how thoroughly my mind has been engaged elsewhere and will have no memory of where I have just been. Whether I’m ruminating pleasantly or unpleasantly about the past, planning for later in the day or far into the future, I find that I’m often just NOT here now.

Then there are those frequent “ear worms”, those musical phrases or lyrics that loop over and over in the mind (at least in mine!), which can be fun and rhythmically motivating at times, but can block other auditory input and prevent me from hearing birdsong, breezes or the everyday sounds of the city or forest where I happen to be walking. Don’t get me wrong-I’m incredibly grateful for the spiritual uplift and rhythmic impetus from such wonderful tracks as the Danish String Quartet’s

Shine You No More ( while I’m riding my bike or

a hauntingly beautiful lyric and melody of David Bowie, however my particular brain has a tendency to get stuck on these things in a way that absolutely prevents the light of other kinds of awareness from shining in.

I decided to use some strategies from Awareness Through Movement® lessons to see if I could become more present while I’m walking, so I’ve tried to cycle through the different senses-visual, auditory, olfactory and sensory, using a series of inquiries such as:

-How does the air feel on my skin?

-What does the forest floor smell like?

-Are there different types of birds near me and do I recognize any of their songs? What else can I hear?

-Am I breathing freely?

-Can I feel my fourth metatarsal while I’m walking?

-Are ground forces moving up and through me or am I creating shearing forces in my lower back, knees and hips by getting smaller instead of taller with each step?

-Where are my eyes? Am I only looking at the ground or do I remember that there is also sky and tree canopy above me?

Zooming in to details of my experience then alternately zooming out to the larger world around as I move through it is a much more connected (and richly interconnected) way of being and walking, not just through the forest but through my life.

At least until the next ear worm takes up residence……

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