In step with The UAE Meditates group to see how walking meditation can reduce stress and boost energy levels
It is 6.45am on a Saturday, and I am on my way to join a walking meditation on Dubai’s Kite Beach. A malfunctioning maps app means I take a wrong turn, and arrive late and slightly stressed out. As I hurry along the running track in search of the group, avid joggers are working up a sweat, couples are striding out briskly and a person is practising innovative yoga postures in front of a camera. Juxtaposed to this energetic activity is a slow, steady-moving crowd, with their heads down, eyes firmly fixed on their feet.
As I fall into pace for their 30-minute meditative walk, I remain acutely aware of the frenzied level of action around me. I bring my mind back to the task, which is simply to gaze just ahead of my front foot, and focus on placing one foot slowly in front of the other.
“People have shouted the word ‘zombies’ at us from a passing car before,” Jay Vasu tells me after the walk. Vasu is the spokesperson for The UAE Meditates, a community platform that offers free activities and workshops, primarily focused on meditation and yoga.
“The group at that time – nearly 70 people – was unfazed by the interruption. This is what walking meditation is all about. It is the ability to keep coming back to the present moment, regardless of outside distraction. If we lose focus, we pause, take a few breaths and then continue.”
As I walk, I quickly notice the mind’s natural tendency to urge the body to go faster. With two small children at home, my brain is almost confused by this slower pace. As time passes, however, my steps take on a gentle, trance-like rhythm, and while the barrage of thoughts does not stop completely, I certainly feel more relaxed.
“It is different from just taking a casual stroll, where the mind is still active and wandering between the past and future,” Vasu explains. “In meditative walking, you are forced to be present because you are moving and focusing your eyes on your feet, without being stimulated by surrounding scenery or other activities. You are operating within your own aura field, which is incredibly energising.”
“It felt beautiful and very peaceful,” says Anne Schneider, who experienced the walk for the first time that day. “Concentrating on the basic movement helps you to get in touch with the moment. This is so important, given the hectic lives we lead.”
Stress reduction, less anger, more energy and self-control – these are just some of the benefits that regular meditative walkers can expect to experience.
Vasu also tells me that just 30 minutes of walking meditation can be equivalent to three hours of seated meditation: “Using the experience of walking as the focus can help bring even the novice meditator into a present and relaxed zone more quickly.”
The UAE Meditates is a part of The World Meditates, which began in Germany and now has offshoots in Australia, India and the United Kingdom. For more on its free activities, including walking meditation, follow “The UAE Meditates” on Facebook.
Updated: April 21, 2016 04:00 AM