(For more information
on ways to recenter and ground yourself, see my books Getting
Through the Day and Sacred Practices for Conscious Living.)
though meditation practices offer us a way to recenter and settle
into a focused, quiet state of mind and body, for some people the
process of doing a sitting meditation creates anxiety. For these
people, rather than bringing pleasure and relaxation, focusing inside
is an uncomfortable experience, and may activate fear instead of
calm. When we've been hurt as children, or struggle with anxiety
or panic for any reason, we often learn to ignore or push away awareness
of what was going on inside ourselves. By definition, most meditation
asks us to focus on being aware of our awareness - just the opposite
of what we may have done historically in an effort to feel safe
and comfortable in our own skin.
There is tremendous
benefit in learning to be comfortable with your own internal world,
so an important question is how to begin to develop that comfort.
This takes me to one of the things I care most about sharing with
people: the power of awareness. When we are able to be more conscious
of our ongoing thoughts, feelings, physical sensations, and urges,
we learn that awareness of what's going on inside us generates the
possibility of choice. With an increased capacity to choose how
we want to be and respond in each moment, we have an opportunity
to move through the world with a greater sense of mastery, empowerment
when we are able to be in touch with what's going on inside us,
we can discover that there is nothing there that can really hurt
us. What we discover are thoughts, feelings, and physical sensations
that arise in the present moment, along with all of our various
urges and impulses. In and of themselves, these "contents of consciousness"
can't do anything to us. We may have thoughts that frighten us,
feelings that seem to be overwhelming, or urges that may be self-destructive,
and it's important to learn strategies to deal with these. But,
awareness in and of itself is only awareness. Nothing more, nothing
When we learn
to fend off awareness of our own internal world, we are likely to
disown parts of ourselves, or feelings, that cause us discomfort,
whether we intend to or not. We become frightened of our own thoughts
and emotions. We learn ways not to know what's going on in and around
us. We avoid spending time with ourselves in ways that would allow
us to move toward a greater sense of wholeness. It's within a context
of wholeness - of being able and willing to experience the positive
and not-so-positive aspects of ourselves - that we can feel safer
in our present-day world. Paradoxically, as we allow ourselves to
come to know those things that frighten us about ourselves, we develop
greater resilience and internal strength. We tap into an increased
ability and willingness to be aware of what's going on in the world
around us, as well as our internal responses to these events and
situations. Rather than hiding from awareness, we discover that
safety and balance emerge from embracing it.
meditation offers you a way to go inside and feel grounded at the
same time. Rather than sitting and experiencing the quiet, this
is a walking meditation. It is a variation on a popular and often-used
meditation practice found in a number of traditions. It offers you
an opportunity to ground yourself in the bottoms of your feet and
to focus your attention on your sensory awareness in this moment.
You can do this
meditation indoors or out, depending on what's available to you.
Your focus will be on the contact your feet have with whatever surface
is under you. Allow whatever amount of time you have available.
If you can,
spend 20 minutes or so doing this meditation. If you find it stressful
to focus at all, then five minutes would be enough. The key thing
is to give yourself an opportunity to discover that it's safe, today,
right now, to be aware of yourself and what's moving through your
experience. If you're someone who enjoys sitting meditation, doing
a walking meditation offers an alternative way of engaging your
by deciding where you're going to walk - someplace where you won't
be disturbed.. Be sure you have on comfortable shoes and clothing
and that you have set aside whatever time you need to do this meditation
a few moments to focus your attention on the bottoms of your feet.
Feel how your feet make contact with the surface under you.
yourself that your feet support your body and the surface under
you supports your feet. There's no effort here. Just be aware of
the support available to you.
slowly take a step forward. As you do, notice how you lift one foot
and, as you move forward, the foot still on the ground begins to
roll forward, as well, and you naturally shift your weight. Do this
slowly enough so that you can feel the various elements of taking
to how your other foot touches the ground as you move into the step.
Very slowly, simply allow the step to unfold and notice the movement
of your body. Do this in whatever way allows you to keep your balance
comfortably. The point here is not to get anywhere. It's to be aware
of each element of your steps, to bring awareness to the process
of walking mindfully.
walk, also notice your surroundings, the colors, shapes, textures,
smells. Allow into awareness whatever arises, and invite yourself
to refocus on the bottoms of your feet and the steps you're taking
if you find that your mind has drifted away from the meditation.
notice your breathing. Notice how it feels to settle your awareness
in your belly, as well as in the bottoms of your feet. Become aware,
as well, of the palms of your hands and your fingers. Your goal
is to be present in your body as you notice your experience of walking
slowly in this moment.
notice any feelings or thoughts arise, whether you experience them
as comfortable or uncomfortable, name them - "thought", "feeling"
- and then let them just keep moving through. Notice that if you
will allow it, every thought, feeling, and sensation that arises
naturally moves through and moves on. It's the nature of all the
contents of consciousness to keep moving if you allow them to.
you have walked for the time you allowed, stop and take a moment
to notice how you feel, physically and psychologically.
come back to everyday activities and awareness, notice what happens
if you continue to inhabit yourself the way you did during your
© Nancy J.