Walking Awareness

by Buffy Owens

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One of my favorite things to do is to take an early morning walk on the beach or out in nature. I love the playfulness of the wind sweeping off the water and the acrobatic birds playing in the waves. I love how the clean fresh morning air dances with the sound of the ocean and the sense of an expansive settling that arise from within. I am inspired to play with my own movement experience.

Often when we are walking down the street, we are not thinking about the way we walking, how our skeleton moves, or what muscles we’re using, or whether the pressure of every step is subtly hurting some part of our body. Our goal is simply to get from where we are to where we are going, and often without much awareness of the process. Even taking a morning stroll on the beach can be void of awareness. We can be entranced by the world around us without necessarily sensing ourselves in it.

We can enhance our experience of life, our ease of movement, and our sense of self by taking time each week to move around in nature with awareness. So too, as you attend to yourself will those thoughts that go on in the background become more and more clear — calling your attention and allowing for a shift in mind. Try this simple walking awareness practice for a couple of weeks and discover a new sense of ease in your everyday movements.

As a single footstep will not make a path on the earth, so a single thought will not make a pathway in the mind. To make a deep physical path, we walk again and again. To make a deep mental path, we must think over and over the kind of thoughts we wish to dominate our lives.
— Henry David Thoreau

The walking Awareness Through Movement® practice is best done on a natural, uneven surface. Take a walk in the park, on the grass or at the beach. Invite a friend and share what you discover.

Before you begin your walk, stand still.

  1. Close your eyes. Notice the sounds around you, the feel of the sun and the wind and the smell of summer. Be aware of your balance.
  2. Stand as you are. Don’t try to stand in any particular way, rather let your comfort be your guide. Allow your skeleton and your muscles hold you comfortably as your arms rest down by your side.
  3. Bring your external awareness in. Try to be aware of nothing external except the sounds that come to you. Attempt to identify each sound: is it high or low, pleasing or grating, what direction is the sound coming from. Let the external sounds reverberate through your body.

You are now ready to begin moving.

  1. Be grounded in the awareness of your feet. Begin this walk in a slow ordinary series of steps. Let each step be grounded in the awareness of your feet as they touch the ground.
  2. Notice the variation in the ground: subtle changes in the level you walk over, in the texture of the surface, in the way your feet roll over the sand, the stones or roots. Awareness comes as you notice more and more differences in the same path.
  3. Look around. While walking, continue to give attention to the contact of each foot as it touches the earth while at the same time looking around. As you look out over the horizon, how does the contact of each foot change its relationship to the ground?
  4. Be playful. Explore how you make contact with the ground and how your ability to play with awareness shifts as you speed up and slow down.
  5. Sense yourself. Towards the end of your walk, ask yourself what differences you feel in your body and the way you walk.

Try this practice for twenty minutes a day or a few times a week and enjoy the new sensations in your body and the deepening of your awareness.