I just got home from a short, but very satisfying walk. I feel refreshed, connected to my neighborhood, grateful for Occidental College where I walked, and renewed by the sunshine, birds, and smell of spring in the air.

Buddhist master Thich Nhat Hanh teaches a formal practice where you walk, just for the sake of walking. It isn’t a means to an end, but an end itself. And, as he puts it in his teachings, “You walk like you’re the happiest person in the world.”

In formal walking meditation, you pick a certain area in which to walk. In the beginning it’s recommended that you pick just a ten to twenty foot path in the privacy of your own home so you can get the hang of it before venturing into public. Then, walk back and forth along your path for a set amount of time. Walk with slow, purposeful steps, paying primary attention to your feet, legs, and body, noticing all the sensations that arise as you walk.  Walk, just to walk, and enjoy walking.

Today, I practiced informal mindful walking as I went up to Oxy to run an errand.  I set one foot in front of the other, noticing the heel of my foot striking the ground first, then rolling over the middle of my foot, and finally pressing the weight of my body into the ball of the foot as I completed each step. The errand took a bit longer than it would have if I’d rushed up there at my normal “taking care of business” pace. But it was worth the extra few minutes.

I became aware of the amazingly complex mechanics of my feet. I became grateful that I don’t have any of the odd little annoying misalignments in my right foot  that I’ve experienced in the past. I was so connected to my feet that I got home and investigated.

Did you know that each foot has 26 bones, 33 joints, 107 ligaments and 19 muscles and tendons? And that the 52 bones in your feet make up about 25% of all the bones in your body — a total of 206 for most of us!And, they all work together, sometimes in perfect harmony, sometimes not so perfect. But, either way, they get us where we are going and take a lot of abuse–especially for those of us that run or wear high heels! Hopefully not at the same time.

You can find plenty of instructions for formal mindful walking practice through an internet search. But, I like Thich Nhat Hanh’s simple description of just walking for the sake of enjoying walking. That’s what I did today and it turned my errand into a blessing.

When will be your next opportunity to walk? Perhaps to the office down the hall or into the kitchen for a glass of water? How might you turn that short walk into an opportunity to savor each step and be grateful that you can walk. Maybe experiment with walking like you’re the happiest person in the world. How might that revolutionize your day if each time you walked, you did it like you were the happiest person in the world?