Of the many meditation techniques, walking meditation is one of my favorites.
Movement. Mindfulness. Body. Breath.
It combines so many of my favorite practices.
But this doesn’t mean that I find walking easy– in fact, moving during meditation is yet another way I can space out and get lost. La, la–look at the birds. Staying focused is just as hard as any other practice.
Still, it’s one of my favorites. It feels real. Whole.
We are beings that move. When (and if) I can be fully present when I’m walking, I slow down and I feel like everything is exactly how it should be.
What is walking meditation?
Of course, everyone is familiar with the idea of meditating while sitting. Walking is the same practice but you walk.
The mindfulness is the same–only the position has changed.
Why do walking meditation?
With all the different meditation techniques, why add walking to the list?
I can think of several reasons.
First of all, if you hate sitting still, walking meditaion might be a good fit. Some people need to move. Walking might be your answer.
Also, if you’re doing a long retreat, walking gives a break from all the sitting. Your body may need some relief.
But the biggest reason to try walking meditation is that walking creates a bridge between your meditation practice and your regular life.
Too often you can be mindful when you’re on the cushion, in controlled circumstances. But when your meditation is done, you get up and instantly zone out. You go back into your old habits and forget how to be mindful until the next day’s meditation.
Walking meditation is a middle ground–not sitting and not daily life.
When you walk, you are bound to bump into normal daily challenges. You may see something which distracts you. You may be interrupted by someone or something.
Being mindful during these common occurrences flexes your mindfulness muscle. You become accustomed to staying aware even as life throws curveballs.
How to Get Started with Walking Meditation
Think of your walking meditation as very similar to your sitting one.
- Strike a balance between finding comfortable circumstances (not too hot or cold, not to loud or quiet, etc.) and getting so comfortable that you zone out.
- Practice good form posture and discipline without becoming rigid and stiff.
- Set up a practice that is easy to get started. Don’t become so obsessed with making it perfect that you don’t begin. If you don’t have 20 minutes, start with 15. If you don’t have 15, start with 10.
But most of all, just get started.
Walk with awareness.
Do I walk fast or slow?
Some traditions teach walking meditation at a very slow, deliberate pace. Each step is conscious; each movement within the foot, from the heel to the arch to the toes, is deliberate and purposeful. You focus your attention on the sensations of the foot on the ground and your body in space. And in the process, you discover many interesting sensations that normally go unnoticed.
Other traditions teach walking meditation at a normal daily pace. If you do walking meditation like this, no one would know you are doing it. Walking becomes a bridge into everyday life.
Both techniques offer benefits.
Choose the one that feels right for you.
Where should I do walking meditation?
It’s easy to imagine that you need a special environment for walking meditation–an idyllic place like a park or a garden.
After all, how often do you picture meditating on an urban sidewalk with buses and taxis zipping by?
But actually, any setting will do.
In fact, I recommend you try walking in a room of your house.
Find a space that’s big enough for a circuit that’s about 15 – 30 paces. For me, I walk from my bedroom, down a hallway, into my living room, and back again.
Walk that circuit around and around.
What’s the point?
By walking a small circle, you remain focused on your meditation. You are walking, but not taking a walk. You have distractions but not too many.
And by walking in a circle in your own home, you always end up in the same place.
There’s something poetic about that.
Of course you can practice walking meditation outdoors too. If you do, any environment is fine–urban or rural. Quiet or loud. Natural or man-made.
Regardless of where you are, stay focused on your meditation so your mind doesn’t get lost. Like all meditation, this is about awareness–not spacing out.
When do I do walking meditation?
Do your walking meditation sessions just as you would any other practice. You can use the same time and place. Simply alternate your walking meditation practice with your sitting one. One day sit. One day walk.
If you are on a long retreat, alternate your sessions sitting, walking, sitting.
What do I focus on?
Your options for walking meditation are exactly like sitting.
There are times when you focus on the walking itself. Feel the sensations of walking. Notice your foot touching and leaving the floor. Feel your legs bending. Be aware of the air on your skin.
There are also times when walking is the container for other awareness. You can walk with open awareness, allowing whatever comes into your awareness to rise and fall.
You can walk with awareness on the breath. Or sound. Or offering loving kindness to those you pass.
Walking meditation is just like sitting. Practice awareness as you walk.
How long should I walk?
Walk as long as you would normally meditate.
If you are a beginner, 5 minutes is enough.
If you have a longer practice, practice your usual time.
Walking Meditation Support
Now is your chance to get started with walking meditation. Join the discussion in my Facebook Group. If you are new to walking, what are you challenges? What keeps you from getting started? And if you are a seasoned walker, what advice do you have to share? What is your favorite technique?