Click, click, click; the sound of heals striking the ground. Squeak, squeak, squeak; tired, wet soles sliding across cold tile. These are the sounds and rhythms of our day. The next time you’re in a public place, maybe standing waiting for your coffee, take notice of the pitter patter of those who walk around you. Are they in a hurry? Do their feet move fast? Do they have a rhythm in their step? Remove yourself from the escape of your phone and the clutter of other noises to consciously notice the universal sound of people walking.
As you build your awareness of others’ rhythmic (or not-so-rhythmic) steps you will undoubtably reflect on your own. At least this has been my experience. It was about two weeks ago that the sounds of footsteps on the floor opened a new door to conscious living for me. Standing in the tunnel between the science building and student center, I heard strong clicks echoing from a set of heals coming my way. They hit the floor quick and persistent. Intrigued by this rhythm, my ear opened to my own steps. My boots made heavy clunks as I exited the building; as I tracked through the snow I heard the familiar off-beat crunching. These sounds are so constant and natural that they become white noise.
Directing attention completely to one constant experience is an ancient meditative tool. Some theorists suggest that through deciphering between small sensory inputs (sounds, smell, touch, etc.), there is a switch between a state of peripheral awareness to focused awareness. Simply put, instead of processing the entirety of ones surrounding environment the mind focuses on processing one action. Buddhists have honed this skill through walking meditations. However, in this practice each step is slow and deliberate. Traveling from one place to another in this manner seems outlandish and almost impossible. Yet walking (or rolling, limping or hopping) is something we all do and can offer opportunity to focus the mind.
I challenge you, when you get up from reading this, take note of your steps. Notice the noise your feet make on the floor, notice your pace and take note of any rhythms you make. Cultivate your daily further by quietly saying a simple two-word mantra such as ‘Om Peace’ or ‘Praise God’. Allow the mind to focus more deeply on the action of moving. As you walk, chant Om with one step and chant Peace with the next. I assure you, this practice will make each step you take one of conscious living.