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Marieke van Vugt

Getting from here to there is a chance for a mini meditation

Many meditation retreats, such as the well-known 10-day vipassana retreats consist not only of sitting meditation but also include frequent periods of walking meditation. To the bystander these walking meditations look something like zombie apocalypse--making them not immediately suitable for practising them in daily life. But you can adapt these methods to make the times you are getting from one place to the other be moments of sanity in your otherwise busy day.

While walking very slowly, as is often done in the context of formal retreats, is a good way to really feel all the parts of your body involved in producing the movement and to heighten your awareness, it is also possible to practise walking meditation while walking at a normal pace. So what then differentiates walking meditation from normal walking? Sogyal Rinpoche says that if you maintain a centre of awareness in whatever you do while also being spacious and mindful, then it becomes meditation.

What is "normal walking" actually like? I find that often when I go somewhere, I am completely absorbed in thoughts about what I will be doing next, what people have just said to me, the problems I am facing, and so on. Since walking requires you to use your body by necessity, you can use it as a tool to distance yourself a bit from these thoughts and ground yourself in your body. Grounding yourself solidly in your body makes it easier to see the volatility of the thoughts, the hopes, and the fears, and thereby creates automatically a sense of presence. And maybe you'll even notice some extraordinary beauty that actually has always been there: a meandering plant, a dark cloud against a blue sky, ...

Just as in other types of meditation, you don't have to push your thoughts away, but the simple act of paying attention to your body and/or the surroundings can create some space between your thoughts and emotions. This may make you feel refreshed and even give some new perspective on the things that are bugging you. In short, any time you have to go somewhere (e.g., get some coffee, go to the bathroom), it can be a trigger for connecting to the spaciousness you have inside yourself.