Walking Meditation and How to Do It
Mindful Walking Meditation Guide (How to Meditate While Walking)
When we think of meditation, we typically picture someone sitting upright in full lotus pose, both their body and mind completely still. But there’s more than one meditation technique, and not all of them require sitting. Walking meditation is just one of four traditional meditation postures described by the Buddha. These four include sitting, standing, walking and lying down. With this understanding we can practice mindfulness in all activities of life.
A daily mindful walking practice encourages mindfulness of body, mind and the space around us. Walking meditation reminds us that body and mind cannot be separated. As with other types of moving meditation, we’re also reminded that we are not separate from the world around us. Our mindfulness is incomplete if it only functions when we’ve withdrawn from the outside world.
All forms of meditation encourage intentional versus habitual action in body, speech and mind. Walking meditation is very effective at teaching us to slow down, remain present, and become less reactive to activity both inside and out. Normally, we walk in a hurried manner, trying to get from point A to point B, without paying much attention to the journey. During walking meditation, we cultivate the opposite.
Of the four foundations of mindfulness, walking meditation belongs to mindfulness of body. By slowing down, remaining present with each step, and applying mindful curiosity to our experience, we develop insights which improve our sense of stability, peace and wellbeing.
How To Practice Walking Meditation
To begin a walking meditation practice, just follow this simple 3-step guide: map a route, set an intention, then go.
Map a Route:
In seated meditation, we ideally select a space that helps minimize distraction. The same is true for walking meditation. Choose a quiet, safe space in which you can comfortably travel 10-40 steps either in a circle or in a straight line before stopping, turning, stopping, then returning to where you began. Unless you have access to a wide, open space, you’ll likely trace this same path several times during the course of your meditation.
Ideally, the ground should be flat and free from objects to navigate around. Selecting your route ahead of time allows your mind to focus on the present moment versus the destination.
Set an Intention:
As with any type of meditation, your intention establishes the boundaries of the practice. Whether walking indoors or out, there’s so much to pay attention to. So, it’s important to be clear regarding what falls within the scope of the meditation and what constitutes mind wandering or distraction. Setting an intention can help you remain focused.
It’s perfectly ok to begin by listening to a guided walking meditation. When you’re ready to drop the guide, the following are just some examples of where you might choose to place your focus.
- The simple movement of your legs and your body as it moves through space
- The swinging, lifting, pressing stages of your feet and legs as you walk
- The sounds, smells, sights or sensation around you
- Sensation in the body itself
- The connection between your body and the earth
- Noting feelings (pleasant, unpleasant or neutral) that arise as you walk
- Noting your reaction to those feelings
- The gentleness or slowness of your walking
- Awe and wonder or bliss and joy as you walk
- Gratitude for the support of your body as you walk
- Gratitude for the support of the earth as you walk
- How movement reminds us of impermanence
It is important to pick one object of walking meditation, such as the movement of your legs or feet, and stick with it for the entire session.
Walk with Purpose
With your route and intention selected, your walking meditation now has a purpose. In seated meditation, we do our best to remain present with our intention, and yet it takes practice. When we find we’ve become distracted, we return to the object of our focus without pausing to self-criticize or judge our performance. During walking meditation we do the same. You are meditating while walking as long as you’re doing your best to remain present with your intention, returning to your intention when you notice the mind has wandered.
When to Practice Walking Meditation
There’s no single best time to practice walking meditation. Some practice it first thing in the morning while others weave it into their day. On retreat or during longer sessions, walking meditation can be a mindful means of breaking up long periods of sitting.
Since walking meditation potentially exposes us to more distraction than a seated practice, it’s a good idea to continue building the foundation for a clear, stable mind while seated. Then, you can use walking meditation with the intent to practice integrating meditation with your actions in the world.