Walking meditation is an ancient practice of, you guessed it, meditating and walking at the same time. And no, we don’t have to have our eyes closed…that could be disastrous.
Traditionally, walking meditation is practiced by walking in circles, walking back and forth, or walking for a long distance. This means that you can practice walking meditation anywhere! In your garden, in your living room, or as a part of your daily exercise - have you considered exploring walking meditation?
In this post, we’re going to cover what walking meditation is, the benefits of the practice, as well as a few tips on making the most of this mindful experience.
What is walking meditation?
Walking is something that most of us do on auto-pilot - we put our shoes on, open the door, and then end up at our destination with little memory of the route we took or how we felt along the way. We get so caught up in our thoughts - analyzing, worrying, and stressing over to-do lists - that we don’t pay any attention to our bodies and how the walking itself can provide us with the perfect opportunity to de-stress and be more mindful.
Walking meditation is more than simply going for a walk, it’s about being mindful of your body, your breath, and your mind.
Thich Nhat Hanh says that whilst walking, we should imagine “printing peace, serenity, and happiness onto the ground” - it’s all about the intention within the walk, and less about the ‘going for a walk’ itself. After all, anyone can go for a walk! The challenge is doing it mindfully...
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The benefits of walking meditation
Meditation, in general, has so many benefits, here are some that are more specific to walking meditations:
- The practice is suitable for beginners as well as more advanced meditators
- It’s a wonderful way to get the blood flowing and move our bodies when we’ve been seated for a long time
- We can easily add walking meditation into our daily routine - whilst commuting, on a lunch break, or taking the dog out for a walk
- It’s a great opportunity to get outside and connect with the nature around us
How to do a walking meditation
Practicing walking meditation is really straightforward, but there are a few things that you might like to consider before getting started.
Picking a place
Pick your walking spot wisely. For example, if you’re going to walk in the garden, clear up any pet poop that might be lying around before you start. If you have decided to go for a long, mindful walk, it might be easier to start somewhere with fewer distractions - once you get more accustomed to quieting the mind, you could challenge yourself with a city walk!
However, if the easiest place to take a walk is close to home, and if you happen to live in a city center, don’t let this stop you. In fact, distractions such as cars, people, and roadworks can provide you with an opportunity to strengthen your practice - you’ll have to work harder to keep a focus on your body.
Walking in a city
Notice your posture, your speed, and the way your hands move as you walk. Be aware of what is around you without concerning yourself or worrying about it.
Walking in your home
Mark a start and end point and simply walk back and forth between the two - somewhere between 10-20 steps should be sufficient! Be deliberate as you walk, and take each step as slowly as you want to - remember, we’re not walking for a workout.
Walking in nature
Plan your route before you get started so that you don’t start thinking about time, distance, or which way you should turn. Listen to the sounds around you, your breath, and your feet on the ground.
Begin each practice by getting centered - take a few deep breaths, noticing how the breath feels as it enters and leaves your body, before starting your mindful walk.
Beginning with a seated meditation practice is another way to feel more grounded whilst walking - you’ve taken the time to start clearing your mind and focusing on your body/breath, and this can make your walking meditation more peaceful as well as insightful.
Try walking in meditation for at least 10 minutes. If you would like to make this longer but find yourself getting continuously distracted by your thoughts and the things going on around you, stop and take a moment to breathe and re-center before moving on.
Being mindful whilst you walk
It’s ok for thoughts to come into your mind whilst meditating, the idea is that we try not to get carried away with them. Allow thoughts to come and go, take a note of them, but try not to cling onto anything.
Notice how your feet feel as they touch the ground, your general mood, how the air feels on your skin. You might like to do a body scan as you walk to really pay attention to each individual area of your body as a way to be mindful and maintain focus.
Don’t judge yourself - your thoughts, your pace, your movement - and keep your heart open.
Keep your body upright and walk at a speed that feels comfortable to you. You’ll probably want to walk a little slower than you normally would, but feel free to experiment with the pace and how different speeds make you feel in your body and mind - this can be an interesting focus for a walking meditation!
Whether you’re new to meditation or an experienced practitioner, walking meditations can introduce a wonderful element of peace into our hectic lives, as well as an opportunity to engage with the natural world.