Regeneration and a Walking Meditation


“Every single cell in the human body replaces itself over a period of seven years. That means there’s not even the smallest part of you now that was part of you seven years ago.” ― Steven Hall, The Raw Shark Texts

This weekend is when the clocks have changed and we have leapt forward in time by one hour, to British Summer Time. Our body clocks have not changed as quickly and it will be a few weeks before our own internal clocks (circadian rhythm) settles into this new time zone. It is amazing to think that we are so regulated by time that it would make such a difference to us as human beings. There are studies that indicate that in the weeks following the change, that there are more accidents driving; at work and potentially even an increase in depression. I won’t delve in to the pros and cons of changing the clocks as there are arguments on both sides. (I have included a link at the bottom of this blog to check out some interesting statistics on the effects of changing the clock).

However, the changing of the clocks does indicate that winter is over and spring has arrived. A time of renewal and regeneration. Out for a weekend walk and the hedges and fields were bursting with new life; there appears to be many more birds out and about, and with the warmer days, I felt a sense of renewal; of regeneration.

At a cell level, it would appear that we are constantly regenerating as well. Not necessarily every part of the body, but most of it. We are in effect a different “person” over a period of time. The difference though is that as we are constantly changing; it is a process rather than a singular event. Likewise, our memories and thought processes change and evolve over time. (I have included a link at the bottom of this blog to check out some interesting statistics about how the body physically changes over time).

This means for me, that change – both mental, as well as physical –  is constant and is something to be embraced. It is also an opportunity to renew and regenerate activities that you might not have done during the winter. At this time of year, with the warmer weather and spring bursting forward; it is lovely to be out and about, walking, taking in the outside world. Iit can also be a time when you can practice a walking meditation.

What on earth is a walking meditation? Are you suggesting you walk about with your eyes closed? You will bang into something, or fall over!

No. I am not suggesting you walk about with your eyes closed, far from it. What I am suggesting is a structured practice that takes no more than 10 minutes out of your day.

Firstly, find a location. Find a place that allows you to walk back and forth for approximately  10 to 15 paces; a place that is relatively peaceful, where you won’t be disturbed or even observed (since a slow, formal walking meditation can look strange to people who are unfamiliar with it). I like to do this practice outside as it gives me an opportunity to deeply observe the life we so often ignore right in front of you.

Start your walk. Walk approximately 10 to 15 steps along the place where you’ve chosen, and then pause for as long as you like. When you’re ready, turn and walk back in the opposite direction to the starting point, where you can pause again. Then, when you’re ready, turn once more and continue with the walk.

The components of each step. Walking meditation involves very deliberating thinking about and doing a series of actions that you normally do automatically.

One method is to break the steps you are taking down in your mind. This may feel awkward, even ridiculous. But you should try to notice at least these four basic components of each step:

a) the lifting of one foot;

b) the moving of the foot a bit forward of where you’re standing;

c) the placing of the foot on the floor, heal first;

d) the shifting of the weight of the body onto the forward leg as the back heel lifts, while the toes of that foot remain touching the floor or the ground.

Then the cycle continues, as you:

a) lift your back foot totally off the ground;

b) observe the back foot as it swings forward and lowers;

c) observe the back foot as it makes contact with the ground, heel first;

d) feel the weight shift onto that foot as the body moves forward.

Another method I have used, is to focus on the ground ahead as you walk along; noticing the path; perhaps stones and leaves; perhaps it might be grass you are walking on and you notice each blade of grass; or the colour of the path. Whatever, you are walking on, be observant of it.

Speed. You can walk at any speed, but in John Kabat-Zinn’s Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) program, the walking meditation is slow. More important is that it feels natural, you feel a rhythm and natural motion.

Hands and arms. I like to let my hands and arms hang by my side. Whatever is comfortable for you.

Focusing your attention. As you walk, try to focus your attention on one or more sensations that you would normally take for granted, such as your breath coming in and out of your body; the movement of your feet and legs, or their contact with the ground or floor; your head balanced on your neck and shoulders; sounds nearby or those caused by the movement of your body; or the the intricate details of the path you are looking at in front of you.

What to do when your mind wanders. No matter how much you try to fix your attention on any of these sensations, your mind will inevitably wander. That’s OK, it’s perfectly normal. When you notice your mind wandering, simply try again to focus it one of those sensations.

In this world of wonder and delight; we spend so much of it rushing from place to place. Not noticing the world around us. For many people, slow, formal walking meditation is an acquired taste. But the more you practice, even for short periods of time, the more it is likely to grow on you and the more you will notice either your own body; the space around you; or even the world you are living in.

Go on, give it a try and you will notice a difference.  

P.S.

My favorite walking meditation practice, is walking on the beach in bare feet, hence why I chose the photo for this blog post. What is your favorite place to walk?

Photo by Clint McKoy on Unsplash

I leave you with the following quote.  

“People usually consider walking on water or in thin air a miracle. But I think the real miracle is not to walk either on water or in thin air, but to walk on earth. Every day we are engaged in a miracle which we don’t even recognize: a blue sky, white clouds, green leaves, the black, curious eyes of a child—our own two eyes. All is a miracle.”

Thich Nhat Hanh, The Miracle of Mindfulness: An Introduction to the Practice of Meditation

For further information on the effects of changing the clocks, go to:

https://www.timeanddate.com/time/dst/daylight-saving-health.html

For further information on how your body changes, go to:

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