Meditation can be such a challenge for those of us who have been sexually abused. Closing our eyes does not feel safe, in fact it often raises anxiety which seems like the opposite of what we are hoping to achieve through meditation. Sitting still can also feel dangerous. It can feel like we are just sitting waiting for something bad to happen and we are powerless to do anything about it. So, combine sitting still with your eyes closed, and you have the ingredients for a panic attack!
If you want to reap the benefits of meditation but struggle with some of the things mentioned above, then walking meditation might be a good solution for you. Walking meditation is just like it sounds – rather than sitting to meditate, you walk slowly, deliberately and mindfully. Pick a place where you feel safe to pay attention to yourself rather than things going on around you. Public places can be difficult to do walking meditation because you can easily get distracted by sounds and people around you. It is hard to relax and be mindful of yourself if you feel like you need to be on alert for danger. If you have a hallway at home or an area in your yard where you feel safe, that would be perfect. Pick an area where you can walk in one direction for several steps, and then turn around and go back the other way.
While you are walking, pick one area of your body to pay attention to. You could pay attention to your breath as is common in sitting meditation, but there are also many other choices. You could pay attention to how it feels as your foot touches the ground with each step. You could pay attention to what your arms do as you walk. If it’s not too triggering to pay attention to your hips, you could focus on how it feels in your hip area as you lift your leg to take a step. There really is no right area to focus on – pick whatever feels comfortable to you. The idea is to keep bringing your focus back to whatever you have picked for your anchor. Don’t worry if your mind wanders, just bring it back when you realize you have lost focus.
That’s it! Set a timer for 5 to 10 minutes and practice walking meditation for a few days and see how you feel. Remember that it takes time to build the muscle of focus and attention, so be patient. It might feel challenging at first but stick with it and hopefully it will get easier. If you pick one area of your body to focus on and it makes you feel uneasy, try focusing on another area of your body. The idea is to make it work for you and not to follow rigid rules that create stress in your body and mind. This is your practice, and you know what feels right to you better than anyone else!
Here is a resource with more ideas: