January 08, 2018 Sue Mowrer
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Five-Minute Mindfulness Walking – Douglas Baker

“I accept each moment and each step as it is.”

We’ve probably all heard how beneficial meditation can be. But if you have a hard time carving out time or if you get too antsy for a sitting meditation, this book offers ideas on another approach.

“Mindfulness is a way of being present and focused on what’s happening in your life, with less struggle. A key part of mindfulness is letting go of resistance and trying to control. Stress happens when we try to control or change things we can’t, including how a mindful walk will be.”

“Five-Minute Mindfulness Walking” is a small, short book – only 141 pages, generously spacious in its layout, filled with whimsical pen and illustrations in black, white and a calming light green.  Written with a sense of humor, Baker offers a series of short essays and exercises; each can easily be read in about 5 minutes.

And as he points out, mindful walking is “free, organic and locally produced. And all it takes is your feet and the practice of being mindful with each step.” 

The topics in this book include how to begin noticing your breath, meditating while walking in the city, walking to set an intention, creating a positive state of mind and more. 

Walking in nature can be especially healing. Have you ever heard of ‘forest bathing’? It’s a Japanese concept and practice called “Shinrin-yoku”, which translates to “walking in the forests to promote health.” It’s prescribed to patients by Japanese health care providers – with actual prescriptions. It has been found to strengthen the immune system and advantageous with respect to chronic stress and depression and reduction in hostility and depression. And since Japan has the highest stress level of any industrial nation, it’s easy to see why it can take a doctor’s orders to do something to reduce it.

“5-Minute Mindfulness Walking” is like an appetizing tray of hors d’oeuvres, with lots bite-sized tips to get you started on your journey. Plus, you can pick and choose which meditation exercise to try –whatever appeals to you in that moment.

Here are some key takeaways that resonated with me about Mindful Walking:

  • “Mindful walking is the radical act of living one moment at a time – not reliving the past or worrying about the future – ‘I’d rather be here now.’”
  • “My foot is stepping. That’s all I’m aware of”
  • “Each step is not better or worse than any other it’s just a step – this step.”
  • “There’s no judging, there’s only the truth: I am walking. We take a step and ask ‘Now, what seems to be the right thing to do next?’”
  • “As we focus on sensations of a step, the focusing itself quiets the mind. Peace happens.” 

Mindfulness and walking can soothe your mind and body, along with more tangible results - even the American Psychiatric Association agrees.

  • Lower rates of anxiety and depression and stress
  • Boosts memory and improved focus and attention
  • Helps train the brain to be happier
  • Increased empathy and compassion and improved relationship satisfaction
  • Increases resilience
  • Changes the brain’s stress center (depression, anxiety, and aggression)
  • Increased immune functioning

Some other thoughts to contemplate that made me feel like I can actually do every day. I might keep some on my computer’s home screen, write post-it notes for my car or jot down in my journal so that that I keep them in mind. That’s about as crafty as I get, but I imagine there are lots of more creative ways to keep these ideas visible, handy and in my consciousness.

When practicing mindful walking,

  • “We’re not seeking a complete transformation. We’re just planting a seed, so look for a tiny sprout of something positive.”
  • “Cultivate loving kindness. Silently offering kindness or love to others as you pass by, or think of a particular person.”
  • “To thrive, we must move, not to get anywhere, but for the medicine of movement itself.”
  • “Life is fleeting. As we grasp the importance of impermanence, we are led to reflect wisely on how we are living.”
“Walk and let the mind play. Practice should not be a grim duty. After all, the originator of the mindfulness tradition, the Buddha was called ‘The Happy One.’”

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