How to Ground Yourself with Walking
We walk for the sole purpose of getting from one place to another.
For example, when you walk to your job, you just want to get there. Along the way, you may subject yourself to pollution, or to large crowds. Your mind is likely to be set on the destination and what you’ll do when you get there.
It’s the destination that you feel you have to reach quickly. You walk to get somewhere every day and you just want to get it done quickly. You don’t care so much about the walk itself, as much as you care about what you do afterward.
There’s another type of walking. One where you walk quietly and take each step as an opportunity to ground yourself, establish a good balance, and maintain a quiet and alert mind. When you walk like this daily, you bring yourself back to the present moment.
You can go slowly. You don’t have to rush. You don’t have to run while you walk. Each step you take reminds you that you are alive on this earth. With each step, with each breath, you are arriving at your destination, which is the present moment. It’s a place where you feel most comfortable and truly at home. If you can walk this way at least once a day, you can become still and strong, just like a mountain. You can become centered again and feel whole again.
This is a meditative type of walking. Tai Chi can be meditative walking.
When I was a young man growing up in New York City, I used to take walks a lot on the weekends. I would start from lower Manhattan, or Chinatown, and walk my way up to Times Square and often farther. It wasn’t so much about getting to the destination, and seeing Times Square. The walk was more about the journey itself.
It was about me walking through the various neighborhoods of Manhattan, getting to know the people. I like to observe and take in my surroundings and just to be able to watch and look at the very interesting things that are happening around me.
This type of walking gave me a sense of belonging.
If you are walking in the forest, it’s not about the destination. If you are going for a hike, it’s not about going somewhere – from point A to point B. It’s actually about taking the steps and walking through the forest. That gives you a sense of belonging.
This is what walking was about for me.
A Practice to Bring Mind and Body Together Peacefully
With decades of walking under my belt, I would like to give you a guide on how to walk meditatively.
First, you need to find a location outside with a good amount of distance for traveling. Take a walk in the garden or perhaps in a local park. If there’s no park, you can just walk in your neighborhood. Try to take a walk in a place where the conditions are quiet, where the air is cleaner.
Walk in a place where you are surrounded by plants that supply you with a good amount of oxygen for the body to absorb.
Keep your head and spine erect. Make sure the crown of your head is pointing up towards the sky, connecting with heaven. And also make sure your spine is hanging down straight with your tailbone pointing towards the ground, connecting to the earth.
Then direct your weight through your legs and don’t hold anything in your shoulders, chest, or head. Plant your feet firmly on the ground with each step and start take a walk with purpose.
When you take a walk, concentrate with your mind. Concentrate, and don’t focus on any object around you. Don’t look at anything in particular. Just concentrate inside your mind without tension and cast your eyes forward.
Look straight ahead, walk with your shoulders and back relaxed. Relax your elbows and let your joints loose so you can just flow on this earth. Let your arms hang to your sides very naturally.
Then, as you are hitting your stride, direct your mind to below your navel, which is the physical center of your body.
As you take each step, your foot touches the ground. Allow your foot to bear most of your weight as it makes contact with the earth. While you are shifting your weight, the other foot remains light and weightless.
Lastly, keep your mind from wandering with anxious thoughts. Always go back to your breath so you can arrive at your destination, which is the present moment inside your body.
Develop A Calm, Connectedness And Embodied Awareness
Let’s do a quick Tai Chi exercise where you are going to now walk in place.
1. Let’s first get into a soldier’s stance by standing at attention. Your heels are touching. Your toes are pointing out. Then, you’re going to shift your weight to your right foot. Take a step with the left to the side. Shift your weight to the left and take your right foot and turn it until it is parallel with your left foot. Your feet are on the same plane, shoulder apart, so when you release your hips and bend your knees, all of the weight goes down into your feet.
2. Do a quick short gravity reference scan – scan your body from top to bottom. While you’re standing, allow the weight to go down through your legs and into the ground. Since the ground is supporting you, note any differences in the way your right and left sides receive the support from the ground.
Is your weight more on your right or on your left? Are you receiving more support from your right leg or your left leg? Notice if any part of your body is holding onto something. Are you holding your chest, are you holding your shoulders up? As you notice this is happening, the holding is going to fade away. Then notice what moves inside your body when you breathe. Inhale, exhale, and do a quick body scan down. Notice where the breath is moving your body.
3. Then, you’re going to come into a walking position. You’re going to shift your weight to the left foot and turn your right foot 45 degrees. Shift your weight onto the right foot and take a small step forward with the left. Put your left foot down with the heel first, and step down. Then shift the weight back onto your right foot. Take a step back with the left, and shift the weight to your left foot. Take a step forward with your right foot.
Let’s do that again, this time in more detail.
1. Shift your weight onto your left foot. Take a step back with your right foot.
2. Shift your weight and feel your weight pour down your right leg.
3. As you feel this pouring down your right leg, allow the empty left leg to swing forward weightlessly.
4. Feel your left heel touch the ground and see what happens at this moment. When you come into contact with the ground, what do you do? How do you do it? Do you kiss the ground with your heel? Connect to the ground.
5. As you slowly pour your weight into your left foot, feel the support of the ground flowing all the way up through your body. Keep in contact with the ground. When you keep in touch with your foot, the ground can be felt everywhere at once in your body.
6. Then allow gravity to pull you towards the center of the earth. Let everything fall towards the earth. The earth will hold and support you.
7. As you sink into the earth, an opposing force rises up through your structure. You sense the ground, supporting your shape, your skeleton. Now you also sense, ever so slightly, the sky and heaven picking you up, and uplifting your spirit.
8. Continue to let the ground hold you, support you. Feel the ground underneath your body. Feel the body receive the energy from the ground. Let the earth, your home come to you.
9. Shift the weight back to your right foot. Take a step back with the left foot, then take a step forward with your right foot, and feel your right heel kissing the ground. As you shift the weight onto your foot, feel the connection of your leg to the ground, and then energize your fingers upward.
10. Shift the weight back to your left foot. Take a step back with the right foot. Shift the weight onto the right foot and take a step forward with the left. Remember to kiss the ground with your heel, and slowly shift the weight. Energize the fingers upward. After you receive the energy from the ground, shift the weight back, take a step and then shift the way forward.
11. As you sink down, energize and rise up through your structure to make your shape. Then shift the weight back. Step with the left, sink down and energize up toward the left. Go back, take a step forward with the right and energize toward the right.
12. Take a step back and relax.
Gain A Greater Sense Of Control Over Your Thoughts, Feelings And Actions
As you meditate by walking, your mind, Chi, and body movements are going to be coordinated. When they’re coordinated, your blood will circulate very smoothly throughout your entire body. When your mind is with you at every step, your body is always going to be grounded.
Don’t lose your attention. Always stay concentrated within your body, the inside of your home.
In the same manner, when you do Tai Chi, you arrive at your destination. You arrive at your home, which is inside your body and in your daily life.
You spend so many hours forgetting your body. This is such a shame because you get lost when you’re outside of your body. The times when you’re on the computer for too long, when you’re so occupied with your worries and consumed by your business, you lose yourself.
The walking meditation of Tai Chi makes you feel whole again. It brings you back to your home, inside your body where you belong.
Now, you’re probably wondering how do you combine breathing with this meditative walking? What steps do you take to properly breathe? Stay tuned and follow me on YouTube, as we continue to explore meditative walking, which can be easily done in your daily life.
What if you can truly feel alive by connecting with your body? What if each step you take, you can truly be at home with yourself, grounded, secured and rooted in the earth.
Tai Chi unites body, mind, and Chi together by taking the steps, the mindful steps on this earth.