Inside, a five-page spread presented "The science of finding focus in a stressed-out, multitasking culture." Facts, research, guidebooks, and stories of personal triumphs touted the merits of stilling the mental buzz. I loved reading an article that put mindful focus on the front cover of a national news magazine. It signals not so much a revolution as an evolution in attitudes toward mindfulness. And it means that Spirited Walkers are very much in touch with the times.
Participants in a stress-reduction mindfulness workshop that was described in the article take a mindful walk in a conference room. "Feel your heel make contact with the floor, then the ball of your foot. One foot, then the other." It's a great way to start any walk! Of course, it's not new to you or me. But it's a good reminder about the validity of a mindful, spirited walk.
The Spirited Walker, published almost 15 years ago, approaches mindfulness with an overlay of movement and meditation. Exercises in the book introduce breath awareness, supportive self-talk, or visual imagery as tools of mindful focus to stop the spin of an overactive, stressed-out brain, at least briefly. If you haven't already experimented with focused walks, take a look at suggestions in the Take A Walk section of this website.
Or, try this: Clear the air with a focused five- or ten-minute walk. As you walk, mentally coach yourself by saying IN to yourself as you inhale a full breath of air. Mentally say OUT as you exhale and empty your lungs. In, Out, In, Out. Maintain a slow, steady rhythm. Simply saying the words in your mind helps you breathe more fully than usual. In focusing on your breath, you are using a tool of meditation to quiet stressful thoughts. You are also fueling your body with oxygen that boosts mental clarity, energy, and immune function. After a few cycles of In, Out, expand your focus by adding visual imagery. As you inhale, imagine you are drawing in fresh energy and openness to life. As you exhale, imagine that stale, used up residue in your cells is flowing out of you. Release tension, anger, weariness, as you exhale. Feel your body release and relax into the rhythm of your steps.
According to TIME magazine, Americans spend more than $4 billion a year on mindfulness-related alternative medicine. Wouldn't it be lovely if a mindful walk that energized your body and released negative stress could cut the cost of stress-related problems and let you put some savings in the travel fund?
To find more suggestions for mindful walks, look at the "Moves for Spirit and Sole" section at the end of each chapter in The Spirited Walker.