Yoga Off The Mat: A Walking Feast for the Senses

Some of you have experienced walking meditation in the studio with me. With eyes softly open to avoid collisions, we focus our awareness on the sensations coming through the soles of our feet. We move through space consciously, choosing not to pay attention to external sights and sounds.

This meditation offers a completely different approach that beautifully serves the intention of cultivating gratitude for whatever is present right now. Our awareness is directed externally, so that we may deeply experience all five senses. While each season offers it’s own sensory creates, it’s an especially perfect practice for autumn, with nature’s gifts of crystalline skies, refreshing breezes, and the crunch of leaves underfoot.

Choose a locale that offers a generous buffet of sights and sounds. Make sure that the need to negotiate traffic or obstacles is minimal.  A park, public garden, hiking trail, waterfront, or quiet country road all work beautifully. Walk mindfully, with sensory awareness. Decide to bring your full attention to just one sense, focusing just one what you see, for example. Or rotate your consciousness through all five in any order or no particular order at all. A few suggested explorations:

  1. Sight. Take your visual awareness to the sky. Count the many shades of blue. Keep looking. How many more shades of blue? What about golds, pinks and purples? Closer to earth, focus on the richness of the scene around you, the play of light and shadow in the spaces between the leaves, the sparkle of the sunlight on any body of water you’re lucky enough to be around.
  2. Smell. There is something delightfully fresh about the air in autumn. Bring your awareness to the tip of your nose and fully feel your body drawing breath. Don’t try to breathe a certain way, just enjoy the sensation of your body taking what it needs and releasing what it doesn’t. With luck there will also be delicious scents–cool, crisp air, an orchard, the hint of a bonfire.
  3. Touch. From top to bottom, there is something to savor: The breeze fluffing your hair; Sunlight warming your face; The relative solidity of the surfaces you travel, whether a concrete walk or the soft, loamy growth of a forest trail.
  4. Sound. Stand quietly for a moment and bring your awareness to the rich variety of the sounds around you. Birds chirping, insects buzzing, leaves swaying, water moving. You may hear voices, machinery or distant traffic noises. No need to identify each source, just listen to the interplay of sounds near and far.
  5. Taste. End your practice with a mindful munch. Whether it’s a full picnic with wine and cheese, a PB&J you’ve packed for the trail, or the ultimate fall indulgence of fresh cider and donuts eaten at a cider mill or farmer’s market, treat yourself to the rich experience of consuming slowly and savor each bite.

This is a beautiful experience to share! Whether with one companion, like my friend Catherine and her daughter, Leah, pictured here,  or a whole group of friends, walking the path together in silence affords a whole new way to build a shared memory. Please give it a try and let me know how it goes. I’d love to hear about your experience!

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