A Coaching Model Created by Cara Coulson
(Mindfulness/Life Coach, CANADA)
The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. Lao-Tzu
As a certified yoga teacher and meditation educator for the past 15 years, I have found incredibly positive results using walking meditation, yoga breath movement, and even Soles of the Feet (mindfulness-based emotional regulation technique) to bring my clients calm and an ability to reframe many perspectives that they find challenging. If I can get out into the forest or on a beach to lead my clients in this type of practice, even better. Using movement, preferably in natural settings, as a present moment anchor to focus an anxious busy mind, something magical can happen. One becomes immersed in deep awareness of the body’s incredible ability, the breath, and the experience as it unfolds. Using physical movement as a focus opens a space of freedom from the story’s muddiness about oneself within the mind tightly wrapped around negative thought processes. Movement can set the thinking mind free. Movement of the body invites movement of the mind.
Walking meditation has been used for centuries as one of Zen Buddhism’s bases to move freely with total concentration on awareness of the present moment’s senses. The wisdom of teaching ancient yogis values the benefits of moving the body in meditation to connect with being alive and not the constant chattering thoughts of the mind. Many believe that the ability to step out of attachment to thoughts and emotions mindfully is akin to living in nirvana. ‘We can harness or even create change with our thoughts. They do not control us,’ is the philosophy of freedom from the human condition. The constant cycle of attachment to thoughts and the emotional upheaval they can create can be broken with a mediation practice. Mindfulness is the result. Mindfulness is the ability to recognize the attachment one has to this cycle and the awareness that one can make other thought or emotional response choices that bring a more positive outcome and the more remarkable ability for peaceful living.
The body benefits from movement, and the mind benefits from stillness. Sakyong Mipham
One of my specialties as a Mindfulness Educator is working with teens and adults with developmental disabilities to reduce anxieties and stress. One way I have been educated is in leading people with disabilities, including Autism Spectrum Disorder, using ‘Soles of the Feet’ meditation guiding created by Dr. Nirabhy Singh. This practice creates a profound shift in developing emotional self-regulation. This technique is created by guiding awareness to the soles of the feet and the ability to move the toes and walk upon the ground if able. The client then builds a practice of mindfully shifting awareness to present body experience (feet and movement, if possible), deep into the body, and away from thoughts creating emotional outbursts. I have seen something this simple change lives of families and care teams working with challenged individuals. The beauty of the internal shift of focus this can bring to someone who has so much of their life controlled by others or their limitations is inspiring. Anyone and everyone can find a way to manage their mental and emotional responses just by focusing on practicing a deep awareness of what is in the here and now. Allowing people to build on their new understanding, finding freedom, and creating dreams is empowerment.
After 15 years of yoga practice and a lifetime of walking/movement meditation in nature, I know the value of creating a model to present a visual idea to the clients I educate in mindfulness and coach in present moment living. My clients are often in crisis with mental health issues, at-risk teens, or young adults with multiple disabilities. Having this visual model will allow a precise, memorable understanding of the concept of how beneficial moving meditation can be to healing the mind and emotions. It will be something that a family in crisis or a team supporting an individual can easily remember and utilize for the people they support.
Walking, especially within natural settings, can easily allow one to focus on the senses. The touch of the breeze moving the hair, the smell of pine needles underfoot, the song of birds within the trees, the full feeling of breath, and just being connected to something greater than oneself, than one’s thoughts. Moving meditation brings freedom from the prison of thought and allows a mindful ability to transform thought processes by enabling a stillness to happen. Meditation is the key to open the door to mindfulness. Moving meditation brings this practice alive and accelerates the ability to develop mindful thinking. The model I have created is: Move IT.
MOVE Internal Thoughts
This model needed to be simple both visually and in language for my client base; however, it also needed to embody the heart of what moving meditation can achieve over time for any individual regardless of mental health challenge or disability. It does not matter what type of movement is utilized; that is up to creative choice. If one focuses present moment attention to dancing, running, walking, breathing, on a body part that can move, or even just the soles of the feet, in cases of those that find mobility a challenge, the magic begins to happen. Getting out of the worried thoughts of ‘what if’ or ‘what could have been’ and the emotional upheaval these thoughts can create can bring one the ability to reframe and reorganize those thoughts in a more mindfully positive way. I have seen and lived the power of this. Once one practices the ability to detach from the stories in our thoughts, one has space to see the truth.
The image attached to MOVE IT is of a healthy growing vine. The vine symbolizes our working neural pathways of thought. Seeing the vine in growth moving from a straightforward vine to flourish into healthy new additions to the whole indicates that movement develops and cultivates vitality. Movement of change happens naturally in nature; movement of the body can allow healthy growth to the thoughts we nurture.
I have already begun to use this model, and it is instantly understood, thus helping me develop lasting and healthy meditation practice with my clients. It also gives my clients enough space from their thoughts to develop a better awareness of what is running through their heads and create new neural pathways of thinking that better serve their belief systems of what they can achieve.
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. Nhat Hanh