Our minds wander by nature. We often go on auto pilot, our bodies eating, attending class, going to work, and walking or driving from place to place, while our minds are a million miles away. It’s easy to get stuck in worrying about the future or thinking about the past, and to forget to be here, right now. Mindfulness is the art of being fully present in the moment. Just give it a try; it’s harder than it sounds. If you’re anything like me, you’ll do fine for a few seconds, and then–whoops! Already I’m thinking about what I need to do tonight, or remembering a conversation I had this afternoon, or even congratulating myself on how well I’m doing at practicing mindfulness…and it’s gone. Luckily, one of the most foundational principles of mindfulness is being non-judgmental. That means that when I lose my focus on being here, right now, I just kindly and matter-of-factly shift my attention back to the moment. No judgment. No fail. It’s the process of re-directing our attention, over and over, to the present moment.
So here’s one fun way to practice mindfulness by focusing on the 5 senses as you walk. You can do this on an actual walk around the neighborhood, or while you’re exercising, or even just walking from the house to the car or from one class to the next. As you walk, focus your attention on one sense at a time. So first, you can use your sense of Vision to notice all the things you can see–actual objects, colors, shapes. After a minute or so, shift to Sound and take in all the sounds we usually filter; the truck rumbling by, the birds singing, the melody that chatter around you makes when you don’t tune in to the actual words. Next, move to Touch. Feel the soles of your feet against the ground, the clothes on your body moving as you walk, the cool breeze or the warm air. Then shift toSmell. The scents around you might be hard to detect until you really pay attention. A pine tree. Someone barbecuing. Wet soil. Last, tune in to Taste. Unless you’re eating, this might be really subtle. You may notice lingering flavors from your last meal. Or you might just observe the neutral taste that your mouth naturally has.
Mindful walking is a fantastic way to tune into your surroundings and your own body, in the present moment. Have fun!