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Mindful Walking Exercise

Moving from autopilot towards mindfulness

03 Nov 2022 9 min read
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Ruby Liu MY

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Mindfulness Practice

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autopilot

If life is a journey, it may be inevitable that we turn on the autopilot mode at some moments of our life to get things done without a second thought. In psychology, we call this state "autopilot mode’’. That is, our habitual, unintentional thoughts and behaviors. 

Both our thoughts and behaviors are shaped by our experiences. We gradually become accustomed to certain patterns of thought and behavior, and our brain develop our own customized autopilot mode to expedite daily operations. When we encounter similar situations in the future, our minds will automatically come up with the habitual thoughts, or respond to things habitually. Such heuristics can be adaptive and efficient. 

Do you ever feel like you are living on autopilot? Ever forgot what you have just eaten? Ever forgot the face and outfit of the person that you just met? Ever wondered what was the last thing you read on social media and drew a blank? Chances are you're operating in autopilot. And you are not alone. In fact, it may not be necessary to stay attentive all the time. However, if you find that autopilot mode is dominating your life, it may be time to rethink the hidden cost of it. 

Autopilot mode enables us to multi-task and quickly process new information in our environment, but it also makes us easily distracted and not being present. In some circumstances, it may cause us to misinterpret new information with our stereotyped beliefs and to be emotionally reactive unconsciously with instinctive reactions rather than responding upon consideration and contemplation.

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Mindful Walking - One Step at a Time 

Through practicing mindfulness, we can cultivate the awareness of our thoughts, emotions and body sensations, freeing up more space within ourselves to make conscious choices and respond to changes, without being constrained by our habitual thoughts and behaviors.

Actually, standing and walking are great ways to integrate mindfulness into everyday life. Mindful standing and walking can be practiced at any time, such as on the way to work or home, having a meal, during commute, waiting for the elevator or at the crosswalk, or even walking around the house. You can turn an everyday action into an opportunity to practice mindfulness- Feeling the weight of your body being supported by the legs, noticing the shift of the body weight including the lifting, moving, and touching the ground. Meanwhile, observe the flow of your breaths and contact with the ground. Discover the inner journey at your own pace. 

Here is an 8-minute mindful walking exercise. 

(Ting) 

Now we will do a mindful walking exercise. 

Please find a space where you can walk. 

Now, ground your feet and stand firm, with your arms on your side. Stand upright, lower your gaze and sense your breath at this moment. 

Now, slowly bring your attention to your feet, sense the contact between your feet and the ground, sense your body being supported by the ground. Notice the distribution of body weight, is it evenly distributed on both feet? Or one foot feels heavier than another? You can also observe how your body weight is distributed over your soles – ball of the foot, arch of the foot, heel or evenly distributed. 

Now, start walking slowly, with about half of your usual walking speed. If the space is not big, you may just walk back and forth. Sense the feeling of lifting up your foot, shifting your weight and putting down your foot as you walk. When you lift your foot, sense your foot leaving the ground. When you put down your foot, sense your foot touching the ground. If your mind wanders, you can stop and stand still for a while, and slowly bring your attention back to your breath. You can start walking again when you are ready. Continue to sense the lifting up, shifting and putting down as you walk. Does each step feel the same or different? 

Now, slowly bring your attention to both legs, be aware of the tensed or relaxed sensations of your legs muscles – from calf, knee, thigh and to hip. Observe how your legs take every step as you walk. Keep sensing each step, each step is grounded. 

Now, walk at your usual pace, be aware of the sensations as your feet move. Keep feeling each step, and be aware of the feeling of walking. Each step is grounded. Even though the pace changes, you can still be aware of each step. 

Now, slow down and stop walking. Be aware of the sensation at this moment as you stand. Sense your breath of the here and now and sense your whole body. 

Alright, this is the end of the mindful walking exercise. When you hear the bell rings You may stretch yourself a bit. 

(Ting) 


Life's most precious moments are not all loud or uproarious. It has its fleeting beauty - fading too quickly and being caught too rarely; mindfulness enables us to delicately experience the sense of presence that is available to us at every moment as our lives unfold.

Mindfulness Practice
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Ruby Liu MY

Well-being Promotion Officer of Jockey Club TourHeart+ Project

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