Meditation can be defined as a practice of focusing the mind on a particular object, thought or activity, to help achieve a mentally clear and emotionally calm state of being.
In addition to promoting relaxation and higher spiritual awareness, meditation has been demonstrated scientifically to reduce stress, to ease depression and anxiety, to help reduce and manage chronic pain, and to strengthen the brain.
Even just as little as five minutes of meditation per day has been shown to have noticeable and accumulative effects on the mind, body, and spirit.
In recent years, many Olympians and elite athletes have begun incorporating meditation into their training because of the host of benefits meditation contributes to their training and overall performance.
Often people become frustrated by meditation when they have difficulty clearing their minds. However, the aim of meditation is not necessary to clear the mind but to focus it by being present with our thoughts and observing them as they arise. As each new thought enters our consciousness, we can choose to follow it, to let it go, or to revisit it at another time.
Active meditation is focusing the mind on the activity we are performing in the here and now, and not thinking about anything else. It provides us with something specific on which to focus our attention on, that we can experience in real time taking place within our present physical reality.
Activities like walking or running inherently narrow our focus and draw our attention inward to the present moment, and the road ahead, yet we often distract ourselves and diffuse our attention from our bodies and our surroundings by wearing headphones and listening to music, using mobile devices, or passing the time thinking about parts of our lives other than where we are in the moment. Incorporating active meditation into these activities strengthens our ability to re-focus on our present activity and immerse ourselves in the sensations and sensory stimuli that are parts of that experience: the approaching terrain, the gentle breeze of the wind, the songs of birds, or the sound of a nearby river. In truth, there is no right or wrong way to practice active meditation, as several different paths lead to the same outcome, but there are some approaches to the practice that can add to our experience and help us maximize its benefits.
As any endurance athlete will tell you, whether you can keep going has as much to do with mental focus, like physical training. Often it’s the mind that gives up before the body. Often the body can go further when we can create a sense of calm in the mind.
There are many ways to develop an active meditation practice during your walk or run or any other repetitive physical activity. If you’re ready to try focus over distraction during your walks or runs, here are six tips to help you get started:
Focus on Your Breath and Posture
Bring more awareness to your breath, as well as your posture while you walk or run. Be aware of slumping shoulders or tightness anywhere in the body. Try to keep the shoulders back and the chest lifted to allow maximum oxygen to enter the body. Active meditation requires a comfortable pace.
Listen to Your Footfalls
A great place to begin is simply by listening to or counting footfalls. For example, count every step up to twelve, then count back down. Counting is a good way to anchor our attention to keep our mind from wandering off. If distractions start to sneak in, observe them, let them go, and return to your counting.
Choose a Mantra
For most, mantra meditation is a very simple yet very powerful tool to use. Mantras help us to anchor our focus to raise our consciousness. Choose a positive and supportive mantra that holds meaning to you.
Set an Intention
Set an intention that this walk or run will help resolve your question. It could be a question that has been nagging us for days, or a stressful issue or challenging thought that has been on our mind. We don’t have to know what the resolution might be, just hold trust that the answers or inspirations are coming.
Focus on Gratitude for Our Body and the Experience
While out walking or running, feel the wind embracing each part of your body. Use every sense and every muscle to interact and connect with Mother Nature. Such consistent interaction will develop a stronger connection with nature and thus adds to your healing. Active meditation is a practice of being immersed in the process and the feelings and sensations of the journey.
When our active meditation is complete, we will feel more attuned, less tech-obsessed, and more harmonious in our mind, body, and spirit.
Joy Jackson is a professional psychic, medium and intuitive guide and a holistic personal trainer in the Pacific Northwest.