Given how human perception works, the degree we know and understand others and the world around us is limited. We humans can only take in so much information at any given time. We have blind spots where we physically cannot see what is in front of us and our brain automatically fills in the blanks without us knowing. We have internal filters that lead us to focus on some things and discount others, which we may do to such a degree that we don’t even realise it is happening. We also live in a society (or at least I do!) where there are a hundred and one things to think about and to do, all at the same time!
Okay, that was a slight exaggeration but you understand, I hope, my point.
We can only perceive and experience aspects of the world and the people we interact with at the best of times. So, if we are not actively paying attention, we diminish our own experience, as well that of others.
There are things we humans can do, to increase our ability to take in more of what we experience, which will enable us to engage more with our world and the people in it. Certain things have helped me to calm my active mind, so I can take in more information, without experiencing an increase in stress, as well as enabled me to feel more deeply my experience which has enhanced my understanding of myself and others. It is my intention over the next series of blogs to look at each of these. Namely:
Mindful walking – listening to sounds or focusing our attention on the act of walking
Acceptance – of my self, as I am presently and life, as it is at the moment.
Learning to separate observation from interpretation – an aspect of the Marshall Rosenberg Compassionate Communication model.
Listening to hear – not to respond.
Listening and speaking from the heart – another aspect of the Marshall Rosenberg Compassionate Communication model.
- Reflective writing – journalling, free fall (stream of consciousness) writing, creative writing/poetry.
So, let’s take a look at the first of these in this blog.
Mindful walking – walking is a form of meditation for me. I could never get on with sitting in one place and focusing on one spot. I have utilised two types of mindful walking. One, where I listen and so observe the sounds I hear around me. I do not pay the sounds specific and more detailed attention, nor do I evaluate them, wonder where they are etc. I simply acknowledge the sound being there by hearing it.
This is not as easy as it might sound.
When I first tried this many years ago, my mind would move from one topic to another quite rapidly or I would actively look towards the sound to see what it was and/or where it was. From time to time my mind still does this and so, I do some mindful walking and my mind calms sooner rather than later. I hasten to add my mind is not necessarily thinking upsetting thoughts when it is busy, although this type of exercise can assist with that. I know this as I used to have upsetting thoughts quite often. I found out the hard way, that the best way to deal with upsetting thoughts is to accept them as being there, but not pay them specific and more detailed attention. Pushing thoughts away makes them stronger and whilst it is natural to wonder why we think what we do, by doing so, we inadvertently fuel the thought cycle so it comes round more.
If you want to try this mindful walking exercise, start with small chunks of time, whatever you can manage, even if it’s only a minute a day. Build on it. I found doing ten minutes each day in my lunch hour for a couple of weeks very beneficial and I was quite surprised at the change in me. I was calmer, less stressed, my awareness increased, I could take in more of what was going on around me: I heard sounds from a greater distance than I usually did. I also found I had the capacity to do more. It was quite an amazing feeling.
So to recap, all you need to do is walk, doesn’t matter where you are only that you pay attention (but not extra detailed attention) to the sounds around you. Gently notice the sounds as they drift by. Observe them. When you notice your mind has wandered off and you are wondering about what to have for tea or something you need to do when you get back to the office, just readjust your focus back to the sounds around you. If you are anything like me, you may need to readjust yourself frequently when you first start to do this. Eventually my mind slowed down and I could stay with the sounds longer. Hopefully you will be able to achieve this too, although it is not a competition! Just remember to be gentle with yourself and take your time.
The other mindful walking is where I focus my attention on the act of walking itself. Starting with my feet, I bring my full attention to how my feet feel inside my shoes, I may wriggle my toes if I feel like it, I focus on how my feet feel upon the earth beneath them and focus on each step that I take. If you are a visual person, then perhaps try to visualise your feet as you place them on the ground. The point is to focus yourself on your connection with the earth beneath you through your feet and to feel fully the support of your feet and legs as you move. This is not a body scan exercise, you are not seeking out how you feel in each part of your body. The focus is on how it feels to walk and so the movement and the feel of your feet beneath you.
This one I play around with depending on how I feel. Sometimes I imagine my body stretching, as if a tree, up towards the sky. If you try this, just see what works for you, but ground yourself first through your feet!
I have found both of these walking meditations to be very grounding. Each enable me to get out of my head and into the physical world. Not that there is anything wrong with being in my head, don’t get me wrong. However, there is a matter of balance to be had.
If you try either of these walking meditations I hope you find them useful and you enjoy the experience. Feel free to share your experience with me if you would like to.
In the next blog I will look at Acceptance.