Make your Next Walk a Meditation

What if each step you took brought you closer to a place of peace and balance? This past weekend, my yoga teacher training group tried a walking meditation. I enjoy going for walks and have always found walking to be meditative, however have never focused on walking as the meditation itself.

What is a walking meditation?

Walking becomes a meditation when you bring your full attention to the act of walking and nothing else – meditation in motion.

How is a walking meditation different from a seated meditation?

Well for one thing it’s best to keep your eyes open! We still have to be aware of what’s going on around us especially if walking outdoors. Because of this you may not withdraw as completely from the outside world as with other types of meditation.

During our walking meditation this past weekend, we crossed a parking lot. A car came around the bend and a couple of us had to stop in order to let it pass. Also, there were other people around while we were doing this practice. Interestingly, these distractions weren’t as disruptive as you might think. Someone described it as being in slow motion while everyone else moved around us doing their thing. If you feel self-conscious, start off in a place where you’re less likely to encounter traffic!

Benefits

  • It is not always easy to sit still in a traditional meditation posture for any length of time. A walking meditation is a nice alternative.
  • A walking meditation can be a very intense experience. In some ways, you are much more aware of your body than in a traditional seated posture.
  • A walking meditation may be easier to fit into your life. There are always gaps of time available, perhaps lunch hour at work or walk around the park while the kids play soccer.
  • A great way to begin a meditation practice – walking is familiar, we are just changing the mindset.
  • A wonderful way to be outside and breathe in fresh air.

Instructions

Walking around throughout your day, you likely have a million things going through your mind and you are walking to get somewhere. In this meditation you’ll be doing the opposite. You’ll simply be focusing on walking. The intention is to be mindful of your body and your breath. You can walk at a pace that feels comfortable for you but remember that by slowing down your body you will also slow down your mind.

  1. Start by feeling your feet on the ground. As you begin to walk, bring your focus into the present, suspending concerns about what happened earlier or plans for later on. Focus your attention on your body and your steps. With each step, lift your foot mindfully and as you place it down on the ground, feel your entire foot make contact with the earth. Be relaxed but keep your spine long.

  2. You may want to gaze down at your feet to bring your focus inwards or you be more comfortable gazing softly ahead. Let your breath flow naturally.

  3. When thoughts drift into your mind just release them and return your attention to your walk.

  4. Smile! Let the smile spread from your face to every cell in your entire body – this is called an organic smile.

  5. The recommended length of time seems to be between 15 minutes and one hour. Use whatever time you have available or feels right for you.

Following is a poem from Thich Nhat Hanh you can use to guide a walking meditation. You might choose one refrain to repeat as you walk.

Breathing in, I know I am breathing in.
Breathing out, I know I am breathing out.
In/Out.

Breathing in, I see myself as a flower.
Breathing out, I feel fresh.
Flower/Fresh.

Breathing in, I see myself as a mountain.
Breathing out, I feel solid.
Mountain/Solid.

Breathing in, I see myself as still water.
Breathing out, I reflect things as they are.
Water/Reflecting.

Breathing in, I see myself as space.
Breathing out, I feel free.
Space/Free.

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