Walking meditations can be a great alternative to sitting meditation and are commonly used in Zen, Taoist, and Buddhist traditions.
This walking meditation is an instrument to change something we do every day into an act of consciousness. It is a way of increasing awareness and living in the present moment. There is no destination, as every step becomes the destination.
When to Practice Walking Meditation
A walking meditation helps to calm the mind as the focus on the movements of the body keeps the mind occupied. This makes the walking meditation an excellent tool when there is a lack of clarity in the mind or great agitation.
You can do a walking meditation instead of a sitting meditation when you find you are falling asleep in your meditation. It is also good to do a walking meditation just after a meal when the digestive processes may interfere with meditation.
This meditation can be done during the first steps of the morning, before bed, during a lunch break, or anytime there is a need to calm the mind or increase awareness.
Walking Meditation Technique
Walking meditation is best done barefoot to allow a better connection with nature. It can be done inside or outside. Walking indoors will help you internalize, while walking outdoors will increase your connection to the earth.
- Choose a place to do the walking meditation where it is possible to walk in a continuous movement without the disturbance of having to make sudden turns. An area where a circular path can be made is best.
- You can keep your hands at the sides of the body or behind the back in yoga mudra (the right hand is in a fist, and the left hand grabs the right around the wrist).
- Your eyes should be focused on the ground in front, but without paying attention to details of the floor or ground.
- Breath in and out through the nose.
- Relax the entire body and avoid clenching your jaw.
- Start walking in a clockwise direction with smaller steps than normal. The pace of a walking meditation is slower than normal walking to allow for time to have an awareness of each movement. If there is agitation or nervousness, you may be inclined to walk faster. Resist this, stay calm and relaxed while keeping the attention on the foot taking the step.
When the above is in place, incorporate the following steps concerning the rhythm and visualizations:
- Upon inhalation, step with the left foot and on exhalation step with the right foot. Keep your awareness on the leg that is moving.
- Once there is a rhythm between breathing and stepping, become aware of the three movements of the foot: lifting, moving, and placing it on ground. These actions are separated in the mind while there is a smooth, continuous movement of the body.
- After there has been a comfortable awareness of the three movements for some time, visualizations can be added. Each time the foot is placed down, add in a visualization that the foot is kissing the ground. Remember to keep the awareness of the three movements while incorporating this visualization.
- Once the “kissing” gesture is comfortably incorporated, expand the visualization so that each time the foot is lifted a white lotus flower blossoms below the foot. Feel love when kissing the ground and compassion when lifting the foot.
If both visualizations are too much in the beginning, remain in just kissing the ground. Another alternative is to simply name the movements “blossoming”, “moving”, and “kissing” until it is suitable to incorporate the visualizations.
Effects of this walking meditation are felt after 15-20 minutes. It may be difficult to practice the full technique in the beginning, but in time, everything will get integrated naturally.
Want to try another walking mindfulness practice? Read about Attentive Walking.