If I am when I think, am I not when I don’t?
That hasn’t been my experience. When I’m meditating, when I’m not thinking in favour of simply being, that’s when I feel most “me”.
Absenting thoughts in favour of pure existence is my favourite kind of meditation. It’s also the one I struggle with most; my monkey brain loves to follow every random, sparkly idea.
It’s easier when I’m walking.
It’s no good if I sport headphones and run my playlist. On those occasions, there’s not only thinking, but singing, dance-walking, and daydreaming. Lately, I’ve been imagining myself back in Las Vegas. In my fantasies, I befriended the mega-rich owner of some hotel or other following a fantastic rescue against overwhelming odds. Ninjas of some kind. As a reward, he gives me VIP access to his hotel’s dance club. My friends join me and it’s amazing. Our imaginary table is awesome, we have bottle service and our own space on the dance floor, and we’re surrounded by jealous beautiful people. My imaginary dancing is superb.
When I’m not distracting myself with the top forty, however, I use walking to quiet my mind.
I got the idea from Thich Nhat Hanh’s writings on mindfulness. He believes we should be incorporating more mindfulness across the board. Mindful eating, for instance. Think about the food. Think about where it comes from, what it took to get to you. Think about the taste and the texture and the way your body feels after you consume it. Be grateful.
Mindful eating has helped me quiet my eating disorder voice. It’s hard to pay attention to the voice telling you potatoes will make your legs fat when you’re busy being grateful to the farmers who provided them.
Mindful eating helps my body.
Mindful walking helps my soul.
It’s pretty easy. All you have to do is be there.
Be in the moment. Pay attention as your heels strike the ground. Notice your feet rolling with each step as you move forward.
Attend to your breath. Breathe deeply. Synchronize the breath and the step. Inhaling for four steps and exhaling for three works well for me. Remind yourself you’re present with every step you take. I’m here. Stay grounded. Connect to the earth, connect to reality, connect to the now.
Feel the sun, the wind, and the rain. Hear the birds, the rustling leaves, and your footfalls.
It’s nice, being mindful. It’s soothing, being in the moment, knowing attention is the only thing required of you. The anxious thoughts drift away into the ether.
It’s harder when I’m seated. Intrusive thoughts come more easily when I’m home. The world is too much there for all that it’s my safe space.
I walk. I relax. Mind and body come together. Breathe. Step.
That was the hardest part. Walking easy. I’ve spent my life moving like I’m two minutes late for the last train out of town. Taking it down a notch was challenging. I felt awkward and odd in my skin.
But slow has benefits. Slow makes it easier to stay in the now.
I’m aware of myself when I start. I think about quitting a lot in the first few minutes. My lungs strain and my legs burn as I push up the first hill leading away from home. I keep going, however, stepping and letting the thoughts go. And then I’m not thinking. It’s just being. I am.
The thoughts come back as I return to the hill that leads home. I wonder where they go when I’m not thinking them? I wonder where I go?
I’m in there somewhere. I manage the walk without dropping my keys or getting lost. Perhaps it’s an existential autopilot?
It’s nice, being fully present and only me. The only challenge is getting out the door.