Conversation 4: Mindfulness & Being Present

Exercise 4: Walking

Exercise 4Walking – a recording of Julian McNally (6:06 min) 

(“Exercise 4: Walking” by RMIT Counselling and Psychological Services, Six ACT* Conversations, RMIT University is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 4.0

The fourth exercise is simply called walking. You can download a copy of the instructions to take on a walk with you by clicking on this link.

Exercise 4: Walking

You can do this anywhere, but the ideal place is somewhere quiet where you won’t be disturbed. A hall is best because you can practise in any weather, but outdoors is fine. If the only place you can find to practise is noisy, that is just another challenge, not a reason to avoid practising.

Similar to the eating a raisin exercise, the purpose of this exercise is to walk mindfully. Unlike the eating a raisin exercise, though, you don’t have to listen to this recording segment to do the exercise.

In fact, I suggest you use this segment to set up the exercise and then do it in your own time.

So here are the instructions, which can also be downloaded at the top of the page. So if you prefer, you can download them and print them to take them with you.

Part 1: Begin your walk by acknowledging that you are beginning it.

You can do this by saying to yourself “this is my walk”, “I am now starting my walk”, or just “start”. Or, you can take note of a particular landmark or point on your walk – for example, a curb, lampost, or a floorboard – and acknowledge the start of your walk as you pass that point.

Part 2: As you walk, pay attention to the sensations in your body. Feel the contact your feet make with the ground.

Which part of your foot leaves the ground last at the end of each step? Which part strikes the ground first? At the beginning of each step?

Notice the pivoting of your ankle as you walk. Feel the bend in your knee.

And each step that you take, notice the alternating flexing and contracting of muscles in your calves, and in your thighs. How are your hips moving?

Now pay attention to your back and chest. How much are your arms swinging? Are they swinging from your elbow, from your shoulder?

Without changing anything about the way you walk, just notice any differences between the right and left sides of your body. Do you move one hip or shoulder or arm more than the other? Is one foot turned out more than the other?

Has your breathing changed while you’ve been making these observations?

Part 3: Now, I’d like you to shift your attention away from your body, to your environment. But I want you to attend to your environment in a specific way.

Let me explain – sometimes as I walk around the university campus where I work, I cross paths with a colleague or student I know well enough to recognise, but not really well enough to engage in conversation. What do you do in such situations?

Well, I’m sure many people would have a different answer to mine, but generally I simply acknowledge the person nonverbally by, say, nodding my head in their direction, making eye contact and raising an eyebrow, or by a simple wave of the hand. In a non verbal way, I’m saying “I see you, Joe” or “I remember you, Anne”. I’m communicating with the person but not conversing with them. I’m acknowledging them, but not engaging with them.

This distinction is important because it’s what I want you to do in the second part of your walk. Walk around for another 5 minutes or so, and simply acknowledge any experience that arises.

This may be a sensation, such as noticing the temperature of the wind or feeling the ground change under foot, or a thought such as “is the 5 minutes up yet?” Or it may be a feeling such as boredom, contentment or annoyance.

As each experience appears in your awareness, simply acknowledge it without engaging with it, and let it go by. It may help you to do this if you think of yourself figuratively nodding your head or waving to the experience. Or if you simply say to yourself “there’s boredom” or “I’m now observing the temperature”.

Part 4: You can stop your walk whenever you wish.

Of course, your mindful walking may be part of a journey that you actually need to make, such as your walk to work or school. Still, try to end your walk in the same way you began by acknowledging a particular place or time, or by simply saying to yourself “I’m now stopping my walk”, or just “stop”.

Once you have some experience in walking mindfully, you might like to try applying mindfulness to other activities in your daily life. At the end of this section, I’ll suggest a few activities to you.

In the meantime, why not take a few moments to write down some activities you routinely take part in that you could apply mindfulness to?



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