For some people, the typical style of sitting meditation just doesn’t work: they can get restless, easily distracted, bored or just not find it to be a beneficial experience. In this article we will explore not only the benefits of walking meditation or meditative walk but also how you can do it yourself. There are varying styles and techniques for carrying out meditation while walking but we will explore one basic method. You are perhaps wondering how someone could meditate while walking or whether there is such a thing as a guided walking meditation. These are all things we will cover in this guide on how to meditate while walking.
The Basics of a Meditative walk
Before we jump straight into the technique, we have to cover the basics of what exactly a meditative walk is. It is an ancient technique practiced all around the world, particularly within Chan Buddhism, Vietnamese Thien and Korean Seon. However, within these movements it’s much more intense than the technique we’ll be covering within this article. Their meditative walk is viewed as a break from the hours of sitting meditation which would be carried out on either side of the walk. The practice allows blood flow to improve and for muscles to be stretched. It also offers a wide range of new sensations for the mind to focus on.
Main Meditation walk Method
We’ll start off by exploring the main technique: the one that requires more work but offers more benefits. For this technique, you need a private space (it can be public but this opens you up to more distractions and potentially interruptions). It can be indoors or outdoors but you need to be able to walk about 10-15 paces in one direction. This sort of meditative walk does not involve reaching a destination. The walk itself is more akin to a breathing exercise than a mode of transportation.
Focus on Each Step
Much in the same way that you take focused but meaningful breaths when meditating, a meditative walk involves focused walking. You may find that you still focus on your breathing but that it takes a back seat in this practice. To start your meditative walk, you’re going to walk 10-15 steps along the path that you’ve selected. Ideally this will be a straight line but if you have to use a circular or square path then that’s still completely acceptable. The important part is focusing on the steps, which you should breakdown in the following ways:
- Notice all that is involved in lifting your foot up for the step: the tensing of muscle in your upper leg and lower leg, whether your foot moves, how the rest of your body shifts;
- As you move your foot and leg forward, keep concentrating on the varying sensation involved in this simple and usually automatic movement.
- As you lower your foot to the ground, pay attention to which part touches the ground first: is it your toes? Are you flat footed? Does your heel make first contact? Ideally you want the heel to be first so you can roll on your foot.
- Notice as every part of your body shifts to make the stepping motion in order to lead you into your next step. You don’t have to walk incredibly slowly but it’s a good way to notice each tiny sensation. Be aware of what parts of your foot are in contact with the ground at all times.
Speed and Position
Carrying out meditation while walking, especially if you’re new to the practice, may require you to walk much slower than normal. The speed that you choose isn’t hugely important but bear in mind that you should be able to notice all the sensations described above to the point that you’re able to focus on each one as it appears and disappears. Try not to walk in exaggerated movements i.e. don’t take big steps or lift your legs higher than you usually would. As for the positions of your hands, this is also up to you. Many people find that by having their hands connected behind their back or in front of them, they remove a distraction. Choose the option that feels most comfortable.
As you improve your meditative walking technique and begin to master how to meditate while walking, you may wish to expand your field of concentration. If you can focus on all your body’s movements when walking, then add in breathing as well. See if you can incorporate a meditation breathing technique into your walking technique. If you find yourself hearing noises (either from nature or otherwise), you can adapt this into your meditation as well. You don’t have to view these as distractions but rather extra layers of concentration and focus.
If you mind begins to wander (and it often will) you can simply acknowledge the fact that this happened. You don’t have to become annoyed or disheartened. Instead, just view it as another step in your meditation practice. Your mind has wandered so see where it wandered to, acknowledge it and then return to focusing on your meditative walk. If this happens too often then simply return to solely focusing on your steps or on your breathing.
Beginning Steps of a Meditative walk
As with any meditative practice, it takes time to learn and improve. If you find the technique described above to be too difficult or you just can’t seem to get the hang of it, there are alternative options. For example, you could explore the idea of a guided walking meditation. This is exactly the same as any other guided meditation but it is of course aimed at this technique. Some will tell you when to step and what to focus on while others will focus on your breathing while you carry out your meditative walk.
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