Walking meditation was the last thing on my mind when I woke up with a full-blown anxiety attack 3 years ago. I thought I was experiencing asthma for the first time or possibly having a heart attack. I couldn’t breathe and my head was pounding. I went to the emergency room for respiratory distress.
When I got to the hospital, I was treated for a migraine and was given pain relief and a sedative. I couldn’t explain the anxiety I was feeling to the hospital staff because it was completely foreign to me. I thought I had felt anxiety in the past, mostly test related in high school and college, but this was far beyond anything like that.
This was sudden, physical, related to absolutely nothing that was going on in my life. It left me feeling like my chest was being crushed, adrenaline filled, sensitive to sounds, shaky, and because it was accompanied by excruciating head pain, I figured that these must be new migraine symptoms.
Wrong. Even when my head stopped hurting my body was ramped up in high gear, trembling and fearful. My new companion, anxiety, stuck around for the next 2 months. In those 2 months, I learned about walking meditation. It ultimately freed me from anxiety.
I found out that a walking meditation is a little different from the kind of meditation you usually do alone in a dark room. With walking meditation, you stay fully present and become mindful. The easiest way to do that is to become aware of your breath.
I was in the fortunate position of living near Deer Park Monastery, a Buddhist Sanga founded by Thich Nhat Hanh. After experiencing anxiety for a month, I decided to partake in their day of mindfulness one Sunday and it started with a walking meditation up the mountain.
As a group, we all would breathe in for two slow steps and breathe out for two slow steps, all the while being mindful of our surroundings. We slowly made it up the mountain, counting in 2’s all the way up. By the time we made it to the top, a feeling of calm fell upon the group.
This method of walking meditation was to focus on our breath while we slowly ascended the mountain, breathing in and breathing out by 2’s. We were told that we could increase our breathing in and out to every 3 or 4 steps, depending on our comfort level and lung capacity. The point was to stay present with every step.
Another method is to focus on a mantra while walking which can be either a single positive word or a phrase. An example of a single word mantra to help with anxiety could be, “Calm.” Speak the word, “Calm,” with each breath out during walking while still staying mindful. A positive phrase could be, “My mind and body is feeling calm.” My favorite mantra is simply, “OM.”
The feeling of calm I experienced when I participated in walking meditation was palpable. I started walking daily all the while staying mindful of my breath, repeating a positive mantra. What I didn’t know was that by being mindful, I was training my brain to relax on its own. It took about a month but finally all of the symptoms of anxiety left for good.
If you want to find out how to be more mindful in your daily life, click Here .
It’s different for everyone. Some people experience instant relief from their anxiety and others like me, it took a little longer for the anxiety to leave me completely. Give walking meditation a try for 30 days and I bet you will feel a difference.
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