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Regain Inner Peace When You’re Busy: Walking Gratitude Meditation

The true miracle is not walking on water or walking in air, but simply walking on this earth. ~Thich Nhat Hanh

The true miracle is not walking on water or walking in air, but simply walking on this earth. ~Thich Nhat Hanh

How good are you at keeping your focus and sense of inner peace when you’re busy?

Do you stay clear, maintain your center and ability to concentrate, even when there’s a lot you need to get done? What about when time or a lack of it adds to the pressure?

During busy times many of us adopt a frenzied, scattered pace. But a scattered mind cannot be present, and does not lend itself to peace, efficiency, or focus.

Wouldn’t it be better to deal with busy-ness from a place of inner calm? When you’re calm and centered you don’t feel so busy, even if you are.

  • Being present increases inner peace.
  • Inner peace keeps us calm and clear.
  • With clarity, focus becomes more effortless.

That may sound simple but it’s true. The problem is we’ve been encultured to believe that we need to get everything done and finished first in order to experience inner peace and renew our sense clarity. But this is really not the case.

From that mindset, everything takes more effort. Remembering becomes a chore. Focus takes enormous mental exertion. Peace and calm are put off as luxuries while we battle on relying solely on will to get things done. We’re less effective and efficient at our tasks, we have too many thoughts competing for attention and our minds get ahead of our bodies. Because of this, we are disconnected, off-center, and scattered. Our minds and bodies are not in sync.

Here are two short examples most of us can relate to:

  • You wake up in the morning on a work day, still in bed, and start thinking about taking a shower. While your body is in the shower your mind is thinking about your work day and all the other things you need to remember. While your body is getting ready after the shower your mind is thinking about your commute to work… When your body is on the way home your mind is rehashing your day at work but also is imagining doing the things you need to do once your body gets home.
  • You decide to get up from your bed upstairs and go downstairs and get a drink of water. As soon as your body gets up until the time it pours the drink your mind is thinking about getting, pouring, and drinking the water, even though your body is putting on slippers, walking down the stairs and through various rooms toward the kitchen.

In both scenarios you are not present. In each case, there was an opportunity to connect to the present moment and inner peace rather than letting your mind get ahead of your body, or stay behind your body. It is in simple instances like these that you can begin to cultivate a mindfulness practice, even if you’ve never done it before. It just requires keeping your mind and your body together, in the same moment. Your body is always in the present moment, even if your mind and awareness are not.

The good news is that there are simple techniques that don’t take much time or skill which will help you regain your center and inner calm, even in the midst of a busy day. When you take a few minutes to practice these throughout your day, you can then operate from a much calmer, clearer place. You check in with the present moment, empty your runaway thoughts, and are able to focus and remember more easily. Getting things done takes less mental exertion, and not only do you become more peaceful, but more efficient as well. Plus, you’re a whole lot more relaxed, and that just plain feels good!

One way I like to regain my center when the hustle and bustle has me running is by practicing what I call Walking Gratitude Meditation. Much like any other walking meditation, it can be practiced for any length of time, including short times throughout the day.  No real meditation “skill” is required to start doing this, and, it doesn’t take much work or “extra time”, something that often keeps many people from beginning a mindfulness practice.

The 4 Steps to Practicing Walking Gratitude Meditation

Ideally, this practice is best done while in motion doing things that don’t take a lot of mental exertion. You don’t need to be walking per se, (you could be scrubbing the floor, carrying laundry down the stairs, or in the shower). You just need to be doing something that requires motion. For the sake of this example, I’ll use walking:

1. Put your focus on your body’s movements and motion
The point of this type of focus is to bring your awareness inside your body in order to become centered. Put your awareness on every step, every time each foot moves forward and then touches the ground. Feel your leg muscles, joints, and all the parts of your body required to walk. Experience every sensation your body feels. If you have trouble with this, breathe deeply first and focus on deep breaths, long breaths in and long breaths out, to bring your awareness into your body (try putting your attention on the movement and sensation of the air moving as you breath it). This is simple enough to do even in a parking lot, as you’re walking from your car to a store. Don’t let your mind get to the store before you do. Be in your body while you walk. (Also, this is very easy to also do in the shower, though you’d be focusing on other movements and sensations.)

2. Notice the mind’s wanderings
The point here isn’t to beat yourself up about the fact that your mind wanders, it’s rather just to notice when it does. The mind will wander to things outside of yourself, judgements and ideas about what your eyes are taking in. Or, it may wander down imaginary paths of possible futures, or conversely travel back and rehash events that have passed. Some of the mind’s wanderings may be distractive in nature and some may just feel plain lousy. Many may be useless and of no value. Just notice that your mind and your awareness has wandered outside of your body, outside of the walking meditation.

3. Interrupt the wanderings by cultivating gratitude
This step first serves to interrupt the wanderings of the mind. We need to interrupt the mind’s wanderings and give it something else to focus on because its wanderings have become habitual. This step then serves to cultivate thoughts that will bring you more contentment, joy, and peace. This will allow you to more easily regain your center and come back to the present moment. See if you can mentally express gratitude about something relevant to the physical moment you’re in. This can be done no matter what you are doing. You can be thankful about your ability to walk, to breathe, to be alive. The blue of the sky, the sun on your face, the eyes with which you see. Or, if you’re walking to your job, there’s probably something to be grateful about in that. Even if you’re walking down the stairs to do your laundry, there are many things you can come up that are worth cultivating gratitude for. While in the shower, why not be grateful for the running water? After practicing this, you will more easily notice when your mind wanders and it will be easier to bring your awareness back.

4. Take a few deep breaths, inhale long, exhale long, and then repeat Step 1
After the expression of gratitude, take a few long, deep, conscious breaths in and out. Put your focus on the breath, on breathing in air long and slowly and breathing out air long and slowly. Then come back to your body awareness (see Step 1).

Try to do this as many times a day as possible, and see what happens. Are you more clear throughout your day? Calm, and at peace? Are focus and concentration coming easier to you? Are you less forgetful and frenzied? I can tell you this works amazingly well for me. The more you can do it the better, and longer periods or walks outside work well, too. But don’t be intimidated by feeling you need lots of time, or special situations. Like I mentioned, you can do this anywhere, during any part of your day.

You’ll probably be quite surprised by what you discover. When you stop going in too many directions and just be where you are, when you are… things really become a whole lot simpler.

The mind can go in a thousand directions, but on this beautiful path, I walk in peace.
With each step, the wind blows. With each step, a flower blooms.
~Thich Nhat Hanh

Do you have a short, easy mindfulness practice that you use often? Or another way to gain inner peace, clarity and or focus when you’re busy? I’d love to hear about it!


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37 comments… add one

  • Hey, thanks Miche :)

    My mind is all over the place when a have a lot to get done. Which for me is especially bad, because I’m truly productive only when I can focus on just one thing. This is why I schedule my activities, write them down, so I can get them out of my head. Meditation works great too.

    .-= Ideas With A Kick´s last blog ..Personal development ideas I can do without =-.

    • Hi Eduard, thanks for stopping by! That happens to most of us. I write things down, too. Actually, that’s probably the fastest and simplest way to de-clutter the mind! Cheers, Miche :)

  • Susan James

    Reminded me of a saying “Keep your head where your feet are”.
    Great advice and info on the technique, I will definitely try it! Thank you.

  • Jeremiah

    These days it seems that it is a rarity if you are with a person that is present and in the moment. It truly is a gift to be with someone and just…be….and be without distraction. Maybe that is why so many people find therapy so helpful. To be in a quiet room with someone you can talk to who is only focused on you and what you are saying.

    It is so peaceful to have to focus on just one thing. It is something I know I really need to work on. Thanks for posting this Miche!

    • Hi Jeremiah, thanks for stopping by! I agree, it is rare. I don’t think we can be present every moment but we can certainly work on cultivating a practice where we try to be present as much as we can. I agree that being with someone and just “being”, being really present WITH them instead of our in own heads… that IS a gift. I think working on one thing at a time helps, too, and practicing quiet and presence helps us focus at busy times, too. Cheers!

  • I’m a big fan of mindfulness practice, and walking meditation is such a wonderful way to be present in a very delicious manner. I’ll call it delicious because it feels so good to be fully present in your body.

    I really enjoyed — and Stumbled — your article. I’ll explore more on your site.

    I wrote a piece on walking meditation called “Little Buddha Walking.” It describes a technique I created for classes a long time ago. Basically, you pretend to be an infant (one that can walk though) where you have not yet learned to think in words; you have no words; you can only experience and observe and feel. The effects of this training are truly marvellous — and it’s exquisitely enjoyable :-)

    .-= John – Zen-Moments´s last blog ..Top 10 Ways to Seduce Yourself =-.

  • Hi Miche,
    It’s also my first time to your site.

    I like the idea of bringing more inner peace to my life. Sometimes I can be stressed with things I want or need to get done. Thanks for this.
    .-= Gordie Rogers´s last blog ..New Domain Name: http://www.LifestyleDesignForYou.com =-.

    • Hi Gordie! Welcome, and thanks for visiting! The more inner peace I cultivate whenever I can, the better I am when I’m busy need to get things done… that’s sort of the irony for me… and probably for most people, too! -Miche :)

  • Hi Miche,
    Very useful post, what you’ve written is so true! I’ll try to give more attention to this from now on.
    .-= Oscar – freestyle mind´s last blog ..How to Pragmatically Integrate Any Habit in Your Life =-.

  • Hi Oscar, great to see you! It probably goes hand in hand with the martial arts stuff you do… you know, really being present in your body and having body awareness… trying this will probably be quite easy for you! :) Cheers, Miche
    .-= Miche´s last blog ..Regaining Inner Peace, Clarity and Focus When You’re Busy: Walking Gratitude Meditation =-.

  • Miche,

    As you can imagine after reading the interview on my blog, I get almost all of this from my time in the water. That’s really the ultimate appeal to the sport. It’s as much a meditative and spiritual practice as it is a sport.
    .-= Srinivas Rao´s last blog ..Book Review/Interview with the Author: Saltwater Buddha =-.

    • Hi Srivinas, great to see you here, and thanks for the comment. Yes, I totally got that about the surfing, and I think it’s really cool. Anything that keeps us moving, connects us to our bodies, and can be a meditative and spiritual practice… and add to that the atmosphere of my absolute FAVORITE place on earth, the ocean…. who could ask for more than that? I don’t know if I’ll ever surf but I LOVE the ocean and I can see, after your interview, why so many people are passionate about the sport (although now I feel like calling it a “practice”!!) -Miche :)

  • Hi Miche, I really like the idea of a walking gratitude meditation. The four steps are very useful and practical, not to mention incredibly restorative. It’s true that for many of us, we think we can’t relax until we get all our tasks done. This is such faulty thinking. I recently wrote about micro meditation moments — moments that are always there, always available for us to take, yet too often we take for granted. Thanks!

    • Hi Belinda! Great to see you! Thanks, I use this often, everyday actually. “Micro meditation moments…” I love that! I’ve missed out on some good posts around the web recently due to a holiday timeout, but I’m heading over to check that out now! Thanks! Cheers, Miche :)

  • Great article Miche =),

    I agree, our bodies live in the present moment but our minds are always lost in some trivial future or passed thought creating an eternal conflict.It doesnt only happen in one day, we do it all our lives, we worry about finishing school then once thats accomplished we worry about finding a partner, getting married, having kids, getting the kids into college, getting the kids married…hahah its never ending, when do we actually enjoy our accomplishment if not for a few nano seconds before we set ourselves a new goal?

    I love your meditation technique, while growing up in India one of the Yogis taught me to do a fun meditation technique to fall asleep (I had insomnia), he used this lights out technique where I started by making my whole body tense, then concentrating on my toes and relaxing them/switching off the lights, moved up to my ankles, knees, thighs, hips, arms, hands ect… and I actually never made it to above my neck cause I always fell asleep shortly after starting :).

    .-= Matthew Michael´s last blog ..Words Are Spoken By The Listener =-.

    • Hi Matthew, welcome! Thanks for commenting, and you’re so right… it doesn’t just happen in small moments or one day that we delay peace, it happens during our long term planning, too. I love the sound of the meditation technique to fall asleep! Insomnia’s such a problem for so many people, and a lot of it is because the mind (and thus body) are not relaxed. Have you posted about it anywhere? If so, I’d love a link! Cheers, -Miche

  • Another first timer here, great article. I some times use a modification of this technique when I have a problem to solve a problem or am trying to be creative. Instead of keeping my mined from wondering and bringing it back to my body I put it on the problem at hand or throw seeds of ideas at it and let them grown. I let the bodies movements be governed as much as possible by the conscious mind while the subconscious works on what I am trying to accomplish. It is interesting to note that i prefer different activities when problem solving vs being creative. For trying to create something i prefer walking while for problem solving i like to play flash video games online.
    .-= Quinn´s last blog ..Reclaiming the battle field =-.

    • Hi Quinn, and welcome! You bring up an excellent point about letting the subconscious mind do the heavy lifting when it comes to creating or problem solving. I think many of us get let our conscious mind get very preoccupied with a problem, and put off mindfulness until the problem is solved… just sitting with a problem and letting it “be” while we cultivate peace through movement or meditation can do wonders… Thanks for bringing up that point! -Miche :)

  • Jan

    Miche, so true! This is the trap that I fall in on occasion. Get it all done, then I can sink into peace. I find if I start my day with peaceful practices—sitting quietly, gazing at nature, listening to some gentle music, reading—my peace follows suit and carries me throughout the day. Beautiful reminders, thank you.

    • Hi Jan, thanks for visiting and great to see you! Yup, “get it all done first” seems to be ingrained in us… I like to start my day too with mindfulness practices, gratitude, or some other form of peacefulness, and end it that way as well. It makes such a difference in the long run… not only do I feel more centered but I’m more effective at what I need to do… more proactive and less reactive as well. -Miche :)

  • I’m off to get a glass of water…being in the moment.

    Thanks for the post.

    • Hi Jonny, great to see you here, and welcome! Enjoy… every second of it! :) Miche

  • Thanks for this reminder, Miche! One of our great challenges is to try to remain calm in the midst of our busyness. I like the image of the eye of a hurricane: things can be swirling around us, but in our hearts we can still be rooted…calm…peaceful.

    I like the idea of walking meditation. We can do it anytime and anywhere. For me, daily quiet prayer is essential. If I don’t do it, I feel less peace.

    Keep up the great posts!
    .-= Fr. Michael´s last blog ..Can Tiger Be Good Again? =-.

    • Hi Fr. Michael, thanks for commenting, and great to see you here. I love the hurricane analogy, being the center of calm with chaos around us. I really enjoy walking meditation, and I think it’s fairly easy for beginners who may have difficulty with sitting meditation… the focus on the being “in” and connected with your body gives our wandering minds something to do. And me too, quiet prayer gives me a certain kind of peace, one I really cherish. Cheers, Miche :)

  • That’s a wonderful article Miche.
    I understand completely what you are saying because all of us are really guilty of not being present in the moment all the time. We just get so used to our routines and everyday tasks that we forget to pay attention to what we really are doing and what we are experiencing.
    My family has just moved to a condo on the beach for a month and yesterday I had my first jog on the beach. I was really overwhelmed with the freedom and beauty that I felt while I was running. Until now I ran only in the neighborhood and I got so used to the route that I didn’t even have to think where I put my feet because I knew every curve and every hole in the road. Every time that I went running my mind drifted away and I concentrated on my thoughts rather than on my body. Yesterday everything was 100% different. I didn’t even want to think about anything. I just was present in the moment and I enjoyed every step that I made and every breath that I took. I was grateful for being alive, for being able to see such beauty and being healthy enough to run on that beach. That was definitely the best run of the year for me.
    .-= Anastasiya´s last blog ..A Simple Guide to Stress-Free Holiday Shopping in a Bad Economy =-.

    • Hi Anastasiya, thank you, and great to see you. Wow, what a beautiful experience you just described… I’m so glad you had it! I think changing our environment or location to a new one can really increase our sense of aliveness, as can being surrounded by nature. It seems you had both combined with a total and absolute presence. The beach and the waves and your breathing and your steps were all part of the same thing… you’ve described it so beautifully, you should write a post about that jog vs. your “regular jog”, the experience and the insights you’ve gleaned from it. I think it would be fascinating, and helpful for a lot of people. Thanks so much for sharing a glimpse into that wonderful experience here. Cheers, Miche :)

  • Excellent post, Miche. I love walking, and quickly get into a state of awareness, aware of easy movement and breath and life unfolding all over.

    Thanks for the great reminder.

    .-= Kaushik´s last blog ..Acceptance is not something we do; it is something we stop doing =-.

    • Hi Kaushik, thanks, and great to see you! “life unfolding all over”… I love that! Anastasiya just wrote about that experience in the comment right before you… I love those moments, too. ;) Miche

  • Your first “shower” example is me to the T. What I’ve been practicing lately is to stay completely in the moment during the shower. It’s only for 5-8 minutes but that is quite an accomplishment for me!

    Did you know that the products we use have a pretty intense smell? Did you know that using the scrubby thing actually tickles or itches the skin sometimes? Did you know that the changing sounds of the water when it’s hitting the body compared to when it’s not are so beautiful? Hey, if you did, that’s great. This is all new to me. ;-)
    .-= Suzanne´s last blog ..Take Care Of Yourself By Reaching Out =-.

    • Hi Suzanne, nice to see you! YES! That’s it exactly! I LOVE how you describe the shower experience… perfect! For me it’s one of the best times to really get in the moment and in my body, to just BE with the sensations and experience. But you describe it way better… if had your quote before I would have used it!!! Thanks for visiting and for sharing it! :) Miche
      .-= Miche´s last blog ..Is Passion Necessary for a Meaningful Life? =-.

  • It’s so true what you say in the first part of this article! And this moving gratitude meditation sounds like a beautiful antidote to the frenzy. I often have a problem with being present, but I find that when I’m doing physical work, especially if it’s fairly ‘mindless’ that I’m usually more present than what’s ‘normal’ for me. It’s something about the movement and the fact that I tend to focus on my breath in those situations. I’m working on being in that space of gratitude more often throughout the day. Combining the two makes so much sense to me. So I’m looking forward to using this technique, I think it will work wonders for me too. In fact, I’ll try it when I walk down to the bathroom to brush my teeth before I go to bed :-)
    .-= Donna´s last blog ..Vegan Vanilla Ice Cream =-.

  • Hi Miche,

    This article was included in the most recent edition of the Meditation Blog Carnival.


    .-= RagsToRich´s last blog ..The February meditation carnival – a collection of high-quality articles on meditation =-.

  • I enjoyed this post. The title caught my eye, because every day I’m on a journey toward inner peace. I like to think that this is a small part I can play toward healing the planet. If we can practice mindfulness and being in the moment we can effect a change in the energy of the planet and cause peace. I believe that because of this combined effort of all the mindful people in the world, every day we are one day closer to world peace. In fact that is a common affirmation in my mediation; I see the world as a peaceful place, all world leaders working toward a harmonious existence. I just wrote a post called “Peace” and would love your feedback. Namaste, Sherry
    Daily Spiritual Tools
    .-= Daily Spiritual Tools´s last blog ..Peace =-.

    • I love that Sherry! Healing the Earth and living in harmony with nature is the most important thing to me, if we keep going the way we have been we as a race will be extinct before long. I too believe that we can change the energy of the planet, and you’re right, mindfulness is where it begins. I believe there is a critical mass of people who can cause a noticeable shift, and it’s not a huge percentage of the population. I heard an interview with Wayne Dyer and he said what the percentage was, I think it was pi which is approx 1.34, so all it takes is 1.34% of us to be doing this to start the shift in a more positive direction. But every day, everything you do influences someone – either in a positive or negative way.
      .-= Donna´s last blog ..What Are Green Smoothies? =-.

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