I struggled for a long time with meditation. Sitting still in mindfulness never came naturally to me. I tend to be a fidgeter, and I like to keep in motion. While over time I have gradually developed the discipline to sit in stillness, and to fight back intrusive thoughts, I still find motion to be more soothing and more conducive to entering a meditative state. For that reason, I have naturally gravitated toward walking meditations as a form of developing mindfulness.

I have found that spending time in parks or woodlands can offer a great opportunity for working on mindfulness techniques, and to build a deeper sense of connection with the living things around me. Here I’ll offer some tips for how to get started with what I have found to be a deeply rewarding practice.

Since this was one of the first methods I worked on when I started meditation, I feel that it’s pretty “newbie-friendly”, and would likely work with older children who have enough patience to walk slow for a few minutes. Even folks with limited mobility can likely gain benefits from walking at their own pace in ways that feel comfortable for them.

A misty path through the woods. Image credit: Sara Olwen.

Before you get started, it’s important to know the route you’d like to take to get started. While you can do this exercise indoors, I find it to be most rewarding when done outdoors. A quiet park can be an excellent location. You’ll also want to make sure that you bring water with you, and perhaps a light snack. When we enter a meditative state and sustain it, the possibility of becoming ungrounded is real. It’s helpful to have a snack to get you “back in your body” so you feel centered, not floaty when you’re done with your meditation.

I find it best to find a flat, easily walkable path which will allow you to travel at a leisurely pace so that you will have a chance to note all of the various sights, sounds and other sensations you may experience on your walk. Unlike some other forms of meditation, you’ll keep your eyes open and will want to maintain some level of awareness of your surroundings, but be sure your path isn’t too busy or cluttered with potential obstacles which could trip you up.

To get started, as with nearly all forms of meditation, you will begin with awareness of your breath. After taking a few deep breaths, draw your focus to the ground beneath you and supporting you. Imagine the ground beneath you, full of tree roots stretching and reaching out into the rich black earth full of rocks, soil, nutrients and decay. After a moment, gently come back to focusing on your breath.

Deep roots. Image credit: Aaron Escobar.

After a minute or so in this state of awareness, you’ll be ready to start walking. Start with just 10-15 steps down the path you have chosen, and then take a pause to draw awareness to your breath once more, and remain in this state of awareness for several moments.

It’s important to note that this isn’t a race! Be sure to take your time and absorb as much as possible.

Unlike in some other forms of meditation, the goal isn’t to drive away all other thoughts from our minds.The goal with these walks is to become mindful of your experience while walking, and to try to keep your awareness involved with the experience of walking.

It is natural that as you go on your walk, you will also become more aware of the natural world while still in your lightly meditative state, but try to truly feel the process of walking from placing one foot in front of the other, to feeling the weight shift from heel to ball to toes. The simple act of alternating steps from left to right is naturally conducive to entering a meditative state. You don’t need to try to understand or dissect the natural world around you. You can just appreciate it for what it is.

Western Toad. Image credit: Sara Olwen.

You can continue on your path until you come to a place that feels safe and secluded enough to sit for a while, to combine the benefits of sitting in stillness with the awareness of motion gained during the walking meditation. During this sitting meditation, you may choose to focus simply on the breath, or to ‘re-walk’ your path in your mind, retracing your steps and recalling the sensations as a form of light guided meditation.

This practice can help us appreciate the fact that the deeper wonders of the world are all around us, all of the time. We start to notice all of the ways in which we filter them out in a sort of sleepwalk state which tends to be our default mode of consciousness. As you do this form of mindful walking, you can become aware of how vast life truly is. You become aware of the individual trees, the feel of the ground below and the limitless sky above.

Another form of walking meditation that can easily be done in a park involves going back and forth in slow paces on a short track, perhaps only 10-30 steps long. When this form of meditation is done, you are more intensively focusing on just the process of walking, and it can be easier to ignore external stimuli. I find this method to be useful for building mental discipline and mindfulness, but you will likely not notice as much of the things going on in your external environment, for better or worse.

You don’t need to necessarily be outside in a beautiful natural setting to perform a walking meditation such as this. In truth, wherever you walk, you can practice meditation and evidence suggests that our capacity for mindfulness increases the more you practice it.

Riverbank. Image credit: Sara Olwen.

As meditation and visualization techniques are perhaps at the cornerstone of any form of energetic working, of which magic is but one example, this mindfulness can go a long way to helping you improve your craft and have your magic be more effective. The opportunity to reconnect with nature while you practice mindfulness can be doubly beneficial for the witch, who is at her core deeply connected with the wild and subtle realms.

So get out there, and allow your steps to carry you down the path to enchantment and to greater awareness overall.

May you be filled with the breath of life, joy and magic! ~Sara