The Blog

Join The March For Peace Today

Pancreatic cancer is notoriously hard to treat. As well as Yasmin's father, this is the cancer that famously took Patrick Swayze and Steve Jobs. In fact, less than one in a hundred people who get this disease survive it, something that hasn't improved since the 70's.

Today is the peace march; didn't you hear? So is tomorrow, and the day after that. Don't miss it.

I'm guessing that at some point in your day you'll walk somewhere. If that's outside, so much the better. So you have a great opportunity for mindfulness practice. No excuses. Even a walk down the corridor to the loo is a perfect opportunity. I'll bet you could clock up an hour of mindfulness practice every day if you did this.

Mindful walking is one of the simple but profound joys of this practice. When walking mindfully, you're on the path! So here's how to do it.

There are just three things to remember. Interest, kindness, and connection. I'll explain.

Interest: Most of the time we walk around in a zombie state. We only notice what we've learned is most important. The brain does this filtering for you, because if it didn't the world would be overwhelming. So 99% of potential stimuli, especially visual, never gets into our consciousness. Kids who have ADHD notice everything; every bug, every piece of glitter, every word on a T-shirt 100m away; and that's not useful, because they get distracted all the time. Somewhere in the middle is mindful attention.

This means opening up our attention, and the key tool is interest. If we make a deliberate effort to notice more of what's around us, it's nearly always rewarding. Suddenly you may hear a bird singing, see the play of light on the leaves of a tree, or notice a passing smile from a complete stranger.

Or you could take more interest in your own experience. How your body moves, joint by joint and muscle by muscle; how you move through space and how perspective changes; how particular smells quickly trigger emotional reactions or memories; how sounds come and go without leaving any trace.

So just open up the senses, and take a deep interest in what you experience.

Kindness: While doing all this noticing, you'll probably also see more suffering. You'll notice that someone you're passing is frowning, a bit stooped, or involved in an aggressive phone call. You may see the masks we all wear to protect ourselves, whether that's being cool, submissive, or uber-confident. Or you might even allow yourself to admit to your own suffering, whether just a slight sense of depression, or tiredness, or stress.

So there's a huge need for kindness, to others, and to ourselves. Now if you want the deepest, most secret teaching on this, I'll give it to you. If you're not ready just stop reading immediately....ok, so you're ready? Smile. That's it. Smile more.

Smile at total strangers (by the way most will smile back; I've never had anyone hit me yet). Smile at your colleagues. Smile at the paving slabs and slugs. It doesn't have to be a big cheesy smile. In fact it may be imperceptible, but inside, you're smiling. With everything you see, and hear, and smell, just wish it well. Not just pretty things; all things.

Connection: We can breathe because trees give off oxygen. We have energy because the sun hit a leaf, somewhere on a farm, and some poorly paid worker harvested the crops that got processed by someone else and ended up in our cereal bowl. We've got a job because someone thought up the idea of the business, that didn't exist before. We're about as independent as a molecule of water in a river.

Yet we live as if we lead separate lives and have control. Joke. We're totally supported by all that's around us, and if we ever stopped to think about it we might even be grateful, instead of taking it all for granted.

More pointedly, if we're looking for good reasons to be a bit more aware of this, there's the principle of karma; that your actions will come around and affect you later. Don't we all love it when the baddy gets what he deserves? Behave like a spoilt child and you'll probably see a negative effect quite soon; take all that supports you for granted and you might find that some things stop flowing.

So while you walking, with interest and kindness, be thankful for all the connections that support us, and don't just wish peace for yourself, but for everyone and everything.

By the way, the path we're talking about, the path of mindfulness, leads here, now. There's nowhere else you can be, so make the most of it. And while you're doing so, ever so slightly, with every step, you're generating peace in the world.

Mindful walking is one of the practices described in the second stage of the Mindfulness Inside Out online course (you can see the intro to it here).