We don’t need a special set-up to meditate. We can practice mindfulness meditation while sitting at the desk, doing the dishes or taking a walk. Mindful walking meditation is a perfect complement to our seated meditation practice – it’s “meditation in motion.” And walking meditation is great for beginners since walking is a familiar part of our everyday experience.
Walking meditation is more than just strolling about. Remember that we are training in being as mindful as possible: this practice is all about being aware of our body and physical sensations as we move. Our eyes are open and our mind and body are rooted in the present. The incomparable Vietnamese meditation master and peace activist Thich Nhat Hanh offers a brief presentation of walking meditation in a short video where he says that as we walk, we should imagine that we “print peace, serenity and happiness on the ground.” To watch what walking meditation looks like, Venerable Yuttadhammo Bhikku, a Canadian monk and Buddhist teacher in the Thai tradition, gives an easy-to-follow explanation in 10 minutes here.
How to practice walking meditation
- Picking a place
Look for a place where you can walk slowly without obstacles. The location needs to be peaceful and devoid of traffic, and ideally it should be flat enough that you don’t have to worry about stumbling. If you’re walking in a public space, you’ll need to take care not to get in the way of others. Practicing indoors may be a good option since you can focus directly on mindfulness with fewer opportunities to be distracted by your surroundings.
- Getting started
After you’ve found a suitable place, begin each session by anchoring yourself. Take a minute to breathe deeply as you bring your full attention to your body. Sense how stable the ground feels beneath your feet. Be aware of the many different sensations within your body. Take note of your thoughts and feelings as well.
Now start walking slowly. In walking meditation, rather than focus on the breath, direct your attention to the movement of your feet and legs, and the motion of your body as it advances. Just walk slowly and mindfully in a circle or back and forth. If you’re turning around or turning a corner, be as mindful as you can of the position of your feet and the accompanying sensations. It is good to walk for at least 10 minutes. You can always take a break and stretch or simply stop moving and check in with yourself.
- Maintaining mindfulness as you walk
As you observe the varying physical sensations that manifest as you walk, take note of your feelings, thoughts and moods as well. No need to make a list, analyze, accept or reject - just notice these mental events as they arise and go back to the practice of walking. Try not to be rigid or mechanical while you walk. Simply walk naturally with goodwill and an open heart: go with the flow.
- Speed and posture
The pace of walking meditation ranges from slow to extremely slow. You can let your hands and arms swing loosely by your sides, hold them behind your back or clasp them in front of your body around the height of your diaphragm or navel. Your leg muscles should be relaxed as you walk, your movement natural and comfortable. Walk with poise, keeping your body upright, aligned and dignified. It may be a bit challenging at first, but with practice you’ll definitely get the hang of it.
Benefits of walking meditation
- Meditation while walking is a good practice for beginners and advanced practitioners alike.
- Mindful walking meditation gets the blood circulating if we’ve been sitting in meditation for a while or if we’re feeling a bit dull.
- Practiced in tandem with sitting meditation, movement meditation provides additional insights.
- It can easily be integrated into our schedules since walking is something most of us do every day.
- Walking meditation gives us an opportunity to remember the earth that sustains us and develop gratitude.
Walking meditation is just that simple. If you’re looking for more tips and instructions about the various forms of mindfulness practice, our Mindworks: Meditation App offers a broad variety of resources for beginning meditators and those who are looking to sustain and renew their practice. At Mindworks, we have everything you need to get you started and keep you going.