When I struggle with my seated meditation I always know I can transition to my feet. Whether I am in my small home yoga room or near an outside green space, walking meditation always takes me deep into my practice in a different way that staying still can’t. So next time your mind is having trouble staying focussed, considering gettin’-up!
What it is? Walking meditation is conscious walking with full awareness of the body and mind. In the Zen tradition is called kinhin, often used to break-up long seated meditations. Today it is often practiced on its own as a complement or alternative to sitting. Popularized by Thich Nhat Hanh the venerable Vietnamese teacher, walking meditation can be practiced almost anywhere: a small room, on a city street, or if you are lucky in labyrinths designed specifically for this.
Why we do it? We practice mindful walking in order to develop skills to integrate mindfulness into our daily lives.
How we do it? There are a few different approaches to walking meditation. You may choose to listen to music, vary the pace or the path but regardless, and remember there is no talking.
Here are my suggestions:
Begin by standing. First observe your surroundings, the temperature around you, the smells and sounds in your environment. Next, close your eyes. Notice your body, gravity, the sensation of your clothes on your skin. Notice the souls of your feet in contact with the earth (barefoot is best if you can), and then journey up your body in the spirit of observation. Ask yourself some questions about how you feel and how you are breathing. Try to be still and let your mind drop into the body.
- When you feel ready, begin to walk. If you are in small room your will be moving very slowly, so begin with the eyes slightly open for safety reasons. If you are walking outside (say, on a city street) you may prefer to walk a little quicker, obviously with the eyes more open and gazing down.
- We don’t change the way we walk in any big dramatic way, we just observe ourselves walking.
- It can be helpful to focus our attention at the beginning on the souls of our feet. As you move through your walking meditation you may stay with a focus on the feet, or you may prefer to focus on different areas of the body, like the knees or the hips, traveling your awareness up the body.
- Allow yourself to also observe feelings, sensations or emotions during the practice. Don’t judge or change them. Just notice them.
- Every so often it can be very powerful to move into stillness during a walking meditation. You can think of it as going home. Be still for a few moments and then when you feel inspired again to move, do so.
- Stop when you are done. You can walk for 5 minutes or up to 1 hour if you like. If you have a few moments at the end it can be a nice treat to lie on the floor or sit in a chair to receive the benefits of the practice.
Enjoy the walk!