What Is a Walking Meditation?
You’ve likely heard the term mindfulness these days. It’s making its way into mainstream society. People are practicing it. People are talking about it. But what exactly is it? Despite what the common perception is, mindfulness practices and seated meditations do not have to be used synonymously. In fact, a seated meditation is just ONE way we can practice mindfulness. You can also use walking meditation, and many more.
My favourite definition of mindfulness comes from Jon Kabat-Zinn. (Which makes sense since he is the founder of the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction program!) “Mindfulness means paying attention in a particular way; On purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally.” It truly helps us to live in the present moment. Which is what we constantly strive to achieve.
Because what other moments do we even have? I’ll let you ponder that for a second… Besides the present moment, what other moments do we actually have?
The answer… NONE! The past is already gone. Worrying about it or thinking about it can bring you stress, anxiety, pain etc. Same goes for the future. The sad realiation is that a lot of people spend their lives in these past and future thoughts, NEVER really living in the NOW. Never really enjoying the beautiful gift of the present moment they are in. For more on this, I highly suggest you read “The Power of Now” by Eckhart Tolle.
So, back to mindfulness.
By bringing our attention to something other than the non-stop flow of thoughts in our minds, we are able to focus on the present moment. To cherish living in the now. We are able to relieve our stress and anxiety. We are able to get back to who we really are and experience inner bliss! I realize the term “inner-bliss” may seem far-reaching. It may seem like a fairy tale of unicorns and mermaids. But I assure you, just because our society deems it normal to be living in states other than our natural state of bliss (stressed, worried, anxious, hurt, jealous, confused, frustration, anger, sick, tired, etc).
So I expect that a lot of you reading this will actually roll your eyes when you read me making a statement that you can literally get back to your feelings of inner bliss. Especially the fact I say “get back to your feelings of..” I know when I first heard that I was thinking “ummm what do you mean get back to? I’ve never felt inner bliss!” But YOU HAVE! It is your natural state of being. It is YOU. So by being mindful. By meditating and stripping away the “junk” we’ve accumulated simply by living on this earth, you can work towards those feelings of inner bliss!
So, now I will introduce to you ONE of the ways we can practice mindfulness.
A walking meditation!
During a walking meditation, we focus on the rhythm of our footsteps, clearing our minds of unnecessary chatter. We focus on the movement of our bones and muscles. On the feeling of the ground on the soles of our feet. We allow the sounds and sights of nature to nourish us, without thinking about what we are seeing. We just peacefully observe! It allows you to be more present in your body and in the present moment.
The simple experience of alternating steps with the left and right foot naturally helps create a meditative state. Buddha Weekly reflects on a walking meditation by saying “Because we don’t set ourselves a goal, or a particular destination, we don’t have to hurry, because there’s nothing there for us to get. Therefore, walking is not a means. It’s an end, by itself.”
So why do a walking meditation?
I mean, we all walk everyday, so wouldn’t it be a bit strange to started meditating while we are walking? Wouldn’t it be better to just find a quiet space and sit down?
As I always say, you do what is best for you! But I will highlight some of the benefits to a walking meditation for you.
It’s good for your body to move! Plain and simple!
- You begin to appreciate the inner workings of your body that you would normally take for granted. Just the same as doing a heart rhythm meditation brings a new appreciation for your beating heart!
- It tests and builds your patience and endurance. Repeating the same movements, continuing to put one foot in front of the other, all while staying mindful strengthens your mind just as running would strengthen your legs!
- By engaging in an everyday activity in a completely different way, you are able to really practice mindfulness. You walk everyday. Yet I’m sure those walks are often spent thinking, labeling or judging.
- My favourite benefit is that a walking meditation has a more lasting effect! Think about it… when you are in a seated meditation and it comes to an end you likely stand up and then jump right back into thinking or doing. But, after a walking meditation, it is easier for us to continue to be mindful as it requires more concentration do be present while walking!
So now that I’ve sold you (or at least peaked your interest) on why you should try a walking meditation, let’s get into HOW.
Now if you want to do this the traditional Buddhist way, there’s a short video you can watch here. But for the purpose of this blog today, I’m going to teach you a way that may work better for you.
How to do a walking meditation
To begin, simply stand still (preferably outdoors), connecting with the earth. Allow yourself to really feel the earth below you. Observe how your body feels. How the soles of your feet feel. Take some deep breaths. When you feel calm and connected, gaze at the ground below you and prepare to take your first step. As you slowly lift your first foot, really feel into what is happening. Pay attention to how your ankle feels, your legs, your hips. When you begin to place your foot down ahead of you, slowly allow your heel to touch first, then the balls of your feet, then your toes.
Oh and did I mention, it is even better to do this barefoot! Continue walking slowly, keeping your focus and attention on either the sensations in your body, or your breath, or by repeating “left step, right step, left step, right step”. Walk slowly, but naturally. Try not to label what is going on around you. Even if there’s a bright flower or a beautiful sounding bird. Just keep bringing your awareness back to the present moment.
And as always, don’t forget to BREATHE. Enjoy and appreciate the sensation of breathing allowing it to nourish you as you walk!
Below, I will help you with how to get started if you need some inspiration…
Live and Dare gives us a great explanation of how we begin a walking meditation:
“We will start by standing up. Stand still. Gaze at the ground in front of your feet. Take some deep breaths, inhaling deep into the belly. Put your full attention on the sensation of breathing. Now bring your awareness to your body, noticing how your body feels as you are standing, and becoming aware of all the sensations going on in your body. Notice how the soles of your feet feel as they are supported by the earth below you. Allow yourself to feel rooted into the earth, connected to the earth, nourishing your root chakra.
Bring your awareness to your right foot. Feel the entire foot as you lift it off the ground to take one small step. Be aware of how it moves as the heel is placed on the ground, and then the movement rolls to the ball of the foot and toes. Notice how it feels as the foot lifts and moves forward. Repeat with the left foot. Now stand still. Allow your awareness to move up through every part of the body, noticing the sensations as you walk. Gradually scan all parts of your body as you bring your attention to the ankles, skins, calves, knees, thighs, hips, pelvis, back, chest, shoulders, arms, neck, head. When you become aware of tension anywhere in the body, let it go. Allow that part of your body to relax. Allow your ankles, belly, shoulders, arms, neck — all of your body — to relax.
When you are in the present moment. When your body is relaxed, we will begin our walking meditation. Let your hips swing loose. Be calm. Enjoy each present moment, keeping aware of the sensations in your body. If you find that your mind wanders, acknowledge where it went gently. Then return to feel the next step.”
Now world, go meditate, and spread your love along the way!
Check out our guided walking meditation on YouTube here.