What is walking meditation?
Walking meditation is an age-old form of meditation practice. In Buddhism it’s one of the 4 body postures in which you practice.
The 4 body postures:
Lying (traditionally on the side)
Some meditators use the same meditation object for all body postures while others have different meditation objects for each posture. Generally walking meditation is practiced indoors but in some Buddhist traditions they emphasize outdoor practice. Either you pace back and forth, or walk in a circle. There is no need to control your speed. Any pace that feels right is fine. Anyhow, it’s good to know that some Buddhist traditions emphasize a set speed, either fast or slow. When you practice walking meditation you keep your eyes open, however don’t look around the room like a little kid. Walking meditation is done with the head and eyes pointing straight ahead.
-Practiced hand in hand with sitting meditation. -You may be dealing with physical discomfort or pain, after hours and hours of sitting. Then, every period of walking meditation becomes an appreciated break. -Walking meditation generates a lot of mental energy. -Sense the build up of energy, especially when sitting down after a period of walking meditation. -The mental energy fuels concentration and supports sitting meditation. Likewise, sitting meditation boosts concentration which in turn makes it easier to do walking meditation.
Where to practice:
In the very beginning it’s best to practice indoors, since there generally are more distractions outside. With some experience under your belt you can practice in nature, but again, there are more distractions outdoors which does make it more difficult. By keeping your practice as easy as possible, you’re more likely to make steady progress.
Any room will do but a large space is preferable since you don’t have to turn around as often. Walk slowly and when you get close to the wall, stop for a moment and turn around.
An alternative is to walk in a circle which means you never have to turn round. If you practice in a circle, stop occasionally for a brief period of standing meditation. But more about that in a minute.
Relax your body and walk slowly with you spine upright. Also relax your arms and hands.
Give attention to what it feels like when the souls of your feet touch the floor. The sensations in the feet is your meditation object.
The feet carry the weight of your entire body which puts a lot of pressure on them. What does that feel like?
The floor may be hot, cold, rough, smooth, slippery etc. Give relaxed attention to any sensation in the feet, become one with the sensations. But don’t try too hard, since a tense mind makes for a tense body, and vice versa.
Now, focus on the foot that is moving, even when it’s not in contact with the floor. In other words, you only focus on one foot at the time.
When you reach the end of the room, stand still for awhile and feel the sensations in both feet, including the pressure against the floor and possible tingling. This is a beautiful moment of standing meditation.
Then, turn around and walk slowly while giving relaxed attention to the sensations in your feet. Only focus on one foot at the time.
The souls of the feet are sensitive not unlike the palms. If you can’t sense much, it’s always possible to practice barefoot.
The only difference with this technique is that you give relaxed attention to the movements of the legs and feet. Together, they form your meditation object.
Relax your body and walk slowly. Give relaxed attention to what it feels like to walk, become one with the sensation of the body movements. Only focus on one leg at the time, unless you’re standing still.
Don’t try too hard, just relax. Look straight ahead, not at you legs or feet. Relax and feel the body movements.
This is a beautiful part of the walking meditation practice. You stop for a moment and give relaxed attention to what it feels like to stand still. Stop for as long as you like, for 5 seconds or even 1 minute.
Every time you’re about to stop, be aware of your intention to stop. Likewise, every time you’re about to start walking, be aware of your intention to start walking. There is no need to think, “Now I’m going to stop.” Just be aware of the intention.
To be aware of one’s intentions is a profound practice. It’s an effective way to cultivate awareness.
If you don’t like this technique, ignore it for now. It’s more important that you enjoy the practice than anything else.
Walking meditation can be done at a natural pace. Some days you may walk slower and other days slightly faster – that’s perfectly ok. Let it flow naturally, there is no need to control the pace. It’s easier to walk slowly though.