One of the biggest obstacles that deters people from practicing mindfulness on a regular basis is the idea about how much time is needed. The formal practice of mindfulness conjures the image of people sitting quietly for many minutes. And while these bigger chunks of practice will help make mindfulness into a habit more quickly, informal practice is also useful. Mindful movement, or the intentional tuning in to the movements of everyday life, is one such way to practice informally.
I invite you to consider mindful stair-walking for your practice this week. Whether you’re at work, at home, or out and about, you can give this a try.
1) Stand at the base of the stairs. Feel the anticipation of movement building in your muscles.
2) Intentionally give the command to initiate the climbing movement. Perhaps repeating to yourself “lift, place, push” will help you to stay tuned in to each part of the step. Take it slow so that you can observe sensations as they arise.
3) Name physical sensations that you notice. Perhaps “burning” or “tingling” in the thigh muscles. What does it feel like when the heart beats faster? Can you notice your breath coming faster?
4) When you get to the top, take a moment to come to a standing position and notice how it feels for the body to be at rest.
5) Repeat on the way back down, feeling the momentum of the body working with gravity.
You could repeat these steps (no pun intended) more quickly or more slowly, or over a given number of minutes to experiment with noticing sensations of fatigue or impatience. This is a great practice to try on a day when your mind is quite busy or sleepy and you need a more vivid anchor to the present moment. It is also a fun way to practice in a public place and a good “mindfulness bell” for your daily routine.
Although it is potentially a very short practice, when repeated throughout the day, walking the stairs mindfully can provide a very effective and routine way to check back in to the moment at hand. So next time you’re standing in front of an elevator, try taking the stairs instead!