Getting Some Life Balance
On the one hand, I yearn to wander aimlessly in wild flower meadows, retracing the happy-go-lucky moments of childhood. On the other, I aspire to taking life and work responsibilities seriously, and keeping my finger on the pulse of deadlines, targets and outcomes; being a good person and manager. There has to be a middle ground between the two, where I continue to live and work effectively, while engaging full-heartedly in the process and enjoying the unexpected joy. Mindful walking has helped me to let go of control and experience the ever-available joy of just being with whatever is.
What Is Mindful Walking?
It was Tich Nhat Hanh, the Buddhist monk and advocate of simple living, who introduced me to the idea of walking mindfully, which is basically tuning into your senses, experiencing the moment, letting go of the urge to over-think with the help of the breath, and connecting with the outer landscape with curiosity and kindness. The slow paced rhythm soothes my anxiety and analytical nature. My breath slows down creating its own natural rhythm and before I know it, I’m noticing the beauty of how light falls on individual leaves and no longer striving to achieve and complete.
A Little History
Mindful walking is a meditation that’s been practised for two and half millennia, at least, and is accessible to all, including wheelchair users. Charles Dickens would walk for up to 20 miles a day in the streets of London, while writing Bleak House, to still his anxious mind. Virginia Wolf wrote a book, haunting the streets of London, about the meditative power of aimless walking, connecting with the urban landscape to alleviate existential alienation, following in the French tradition of the flaneur, the urban wanderer.
So, what can mindful walking do for the busy professional who hasn’t got a minute to spare in her performance driven schedule?
The Benefits of Movement
The British Heart Foundation reports that 37% of men and 45% of women spend less than 30 minutes on their feet at work, and 52% of us eat our lunch at our desks. It is now recognised that sedentary working increases the risk of a cardio-vascular event, like stroke or heart attack. Other research suggests that regular gentle exercise, like a half hour walk, can be as effective as infrequent work-outs at the gym, which is welcome news for those of us who can’t bear gym culture.
The Benefits of Mindfulness
Neuro-science has revealed that regular mindfulness meditation practice really does change how the brain works, building a resilience to the increasing demands of the workplace and a better understanding of how chronic stress undermines effective thinking. Research has shown that regular meditators experience increased focus and attention, less conflict in relationships, better decision making and better health, visiting GP and hospital less often. It is known to increase blood flow, thereby reducing high blood pressure, as well as improve the management of addictions.
An Invitation to Explore Mindful Walking In Cambridge
It appears that mindful walking combines these two truths, the benefits of regular exercise and mind-stilling meditation. What’s not to like?
So, where do you go from here?
One option is to buy yourself a mindfulness guide and walk to work. Another is to sample mindfulness walking with other novices by joining one of our mindful walks in the city, Tuesday lunchtimes throughout August, where I will lead a group of busy professionals through the luscious gardens of the university college gardens, offering simple instructions, experiencing internal and external landscapes, and all in time to get back to the office to meet those deadlines before end of day.
Sample Mindful Walking for Busy Professionals
Our city walks are free and targeted at a working population that wants to find a happy medium between performance and wellbeing. Our full mindfulness training programme, Mindfulness at Work, provides the tuition and learning environment necessary to develop an effective mindfulness practice that will change how you manage work demands and establish the work-life balance you’ve been yearning for.