Simply put, meditation is the practice of being with whatever is happening in the present moment. A focal point is often used to help meditators return to the present, such as breath. The breath is a great place to bring awareness to because it is constantly in flux. Breathing in and breathing out is a cycle that brings life to our bodies. The breath also has the potential to calm or activate our bodies. If you are nervous or excited, you might notice that the breath is faster and reflects the pace of your thoughts and emotions. Slow deep breaths can bring peace and relax the body. Focusing on the breath during meditation allows you to be with exactly where you are without feeling the need to judge your experience or let your mind narrate what is happening. Instead of trying to shut off the mind, simply refocus your awareness on the breath and let the mind wander without giving it the microphone of your awareness, sometimes known as your “inner voice.”
This same kind of meditative awareness can be brought to everything you do. Walking meditation is a valuable practice of engaging in meditative awareness while in movement. Begin by taking a couple deep breaths while standing to settle into your body. Then, slowly move one foot forward and place it in down front of you, taking your first step and noticing how your weight shifts to the newly planted foot. Then, slowly raise your back foot and move forward again. With each footstep, be present to how your body, like the breath, is different in each phase of your walking movement. We often walk down the street or trail wrapped up in our thoughts on the day or things we need to do. Begin to notice this habit and bring your awareness back to the body as you slowly move forward with each step.
While practicing walking meditation in this installation, you can also use the sounds of the Everglades as a point of focus to return your awareness to. Listening to the sounds of the natural world is a supportive way to be present. The sounds of a bird singing and the rustling of wind through the trees are forms of communication that evolved with our own human experience for millennia. Notice the ways in which being present with nature can bring about a sense of being at home. Just like the breath can bring you into your body, the sounds of the Earth can bring you back to feeling human and a part of our home, the Earth.
Take your time and practice walking meditation here in Gaslight Alley.
Practice shifting your awareness from the breath to your movement and to the sounds of the Everglades. Know that cultivating this type of present awareness is something that you can bring to every aspect of your day. Stress often arises when our minds are consumed with stories of the past or worried about the future. The present moment is a place where you can come to rest.