Why the Mindful Walk is the Way to Stroll

Mindful walk through a vine and wood covered tunnel

When I was in college, I could be called many things. A mindful walker was not among them. On too many occasions, friends would let me know how they would see me on campus, often wave, but get no response from me. I simply didn’t “see” them, they would say.

Evidently, I was “lost in thought.” My mind must have wandered, as most of ours do up to half of our waking hours.

Sure, my mind wanders nowadays, but fortunately less so. And especially less so when I’m out on a stroll. For roughly past decade,

my trips to and from work;

the errands I run on bike;

the after dinner strolls I enjoy with my wife

have immersed me in an expansive present.

This present carries with it rich textures of sounds—bird song often being the most welcome. Yet also welcome are the voices of friends and the giggles of children and the bumbles of brooks.

In a mindful state, even blaring fire trucks add distinctive, dramatic rhythm to a scene. We mindful walkers and rollers witness Jane Jacob’s “sidewalk ballet“—

people chatting and loitering;

strollers blending with dogs;

blending with runners;

blending with scootered kids.

In tune with the great impressionist painters, we appreciate shifting patterns of light and shadow as they slither across the landscape.

Our senses of smell, sight, taste and touch weave together on mindful walks. The smell, the sight, the touch and taste of a sprig of rosemary. The skin tingle of a late spring breeze as you take note of the mulberry tree-ified purple sidewalk.

We mindful walkers notice. We walk slowly or swiftly, depending on the rhythm that suits our place’s general mood. Shifting weight from one foot to the other, we feel the varied sensations on the soles of our feet. Heel to toe, ground to heel. Ground to toe. Lifting up, placing down. Hips rocking. Arms swaying.

Our movement in sync with our locale. The tempo of traffic, the pulsing of insects make up the rhythm; conversing birds and humans comprise the melody.

And that reminds me: mindful walkers judge and evaluate none of this. We are wholly open to the strolling experience. Less appraising flâneurs, and more practitioners of zen.

Each mindful step a re-affirmation of our place in this grand community.

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