At a meditation retreat years ago I mentioned to my teacher that I was taking a long walk every day. He didn’t see that as a distraction, but rather an opportunity to practice another form of meditation.
When practicing concentration meditation, we direct our mind towards a single chosen object, bringing it back again and again (with kindness) every time we realize it’s strayed away. Over time, the mind tends to settle down and is able to maintain this focus more easily. Familiar forms this practice takes include working with a rosary, repeated prayer or mantra, or staring at a candle or other object. My practice usually takes the breath as “home base.”
What my teacher suggested that day was to use four different objects to pay attention to, one at a time. They were:
moving through space
touching (or gravity)
With seeing, it is a soft-focussed awareness of what is seen, not a searching out each thing we see. With hearing it is similar, simply noticing sounds arriving at the ear. Moving through space is a full-body awareness, and touching can be any felt contact, though I tend to focus on the feeling of my feet with each step.
At no point are we to make judgments, tell stories, or otherwise get lost in content. When that inevitably happens, we gently bring our mind back to the object we strayed from. Since one of the ways my mind would generate thoughts is to think about when to shift, I find a landmark up ahead which will be the place where I change focus to the next object/process. When I get there and change, I look ahead for the next transition spot.
Sometimes one’s concentration can be so strong that they all merge, and one is present to all experience as it comes and goes. This can’t be forced, but is lovely to enjoy if it happens.