I lead a “mindful walk” weekly at the YMCA as part of my yoga teachings. This 30 minute to an hour walk has become one of my favorite times of the week. I learn so much about the community, how much the mind drifts away, and something new every single week. It’s enlightening!
What is a Mindful Walk and mindfulness?
Mindfulness can be practiced literally ANYWHERE and everywhere. To be mindful is simply to be aware and conscious of your surroundings and body, mind, and soul. When we are fully aware of what is happening in and around us, we are able to be more present. We also notice more and observe everything without judging or competing with another. Mindful walking can be practiced in one room, easily walking slowly from one end of the room to the other, acknowledging that the feet are leading your steps. It is simple, yet challenging for our minds.
Our weekly Mindful Walk is through the quaint and serene downtown Gadsden. The walk is not about speed, distance, heart-rate, or burning calories. Each week I give the walkers a theme, a breath focus, or they can choose to focus on how the feet are stepping. There is silence; no one speaks to one another so we are intentional and tuning into ourselves. I lead the group so there isn’t any worry about where we will go. We also find “green areas,” such as small parks, gardens, or a big tree to slow down, rest, or wander. During this 5 minute exploration, participants are invited to meditate, walk around the area, stand, or just sit and BE. At this time in the evenings, all shops and businesses are closed for the day. It’s so pleasant!
After the walk is complete, we discuss things we noticed within our minds or something we saw. Everyone says something different. Our awareness is so individual, and sharing helps us to realize this. A few things people have recalled after our walks:
- Stores we have never taken the time to see before! One week someone said they saw a “bra store.” Who knew there was one!?
- Smells. Flowers, restaurants, fresh air, oh my! Even people smoking on the street and how much it affects our state-of-mind as we work on mindfulness.
- The mind wanders, a lot. Keep returning back to your intention, breath, or feet over and over. Just like meditation.
- Plants and green areas never seen before. Most of the time, we run to work and rush home, not observing what is around us. These moments help us to open our eyes and minds.
- Our bodies. Each day our body is in a different place, and by practicing mindfulness, we notice how the body is functioning in that particular time.
- And so much more!
Interested in mindfulness? You can read up on the subject, close your eyes and observe what is going on in your body, or come on our Mindful Walk! If you are in the Gadsden, Alabama area, we meet at the downtown YMCA at 5:30pm Wednesdays and walk slowly and intentionally for about an hour (less if it is super hot outside). Dress comfortably, bring water if you would like, and get ready to relax in a different way!