In the practice of mindful walking, you place your entire awareness in the process of walking and by doing so you can transform the world into an amazing place.
What is walking meditation?
Walking meditation is a more practical approach to mindfulness meditation for people who are not used to meditation while sitting. It simply means being aware of every step (and breath) while walking.
Mindfulness is the continuous awareness of our bodies, our minds and our thoughts. It takes practice! Mindfulness can be the foundation of happiness and wellbeing by bringing us back to the present moment and keeping us in touch with what is life’s wonders.
Breathing is taken for granted. We all know how to do and so instinctively and effortlessly. It’s a natural skill but, being aware of our breath can help reduce anxiety. One of my favourite breathing exercises and one you can use while performing a walking meditation is the 4-4-4-4 technique. It’s actually used by Navy Seals to help calm them down.
You inhale for a count of 4, then hold for a count of 4. Exhale for a count of 4 and then pause for a count of 4 before inhaling again to repeat the process. You can do this for a 3 count or as you get better at it hold for longer counts of 5 or 6.
Walking mindfulness is walking without intention or say, a need to get somewhere. Just focus on your steps and breath. It can be done anywhere and any practical time and it can even be done with another person! Try it somewhere with solitude such as a woods path or even just walking to your car form the grocery store.
There are seven miracles of mindfulness. This is taken from the intro to children’s book Mindful movements By Thich Nhat Hanh
“If we bring mindfulness into every aspect of our life, we cannot help but experience life’s miracles.
“The First Miracle is to be present and able to touch deeply the miracles of life, like the blue sky, a flower, the smile of a child.
“The Second Miracle is to make the other — the sky, a flower, a child — present also. Then we have the opportunity to see each other deeply.
“The Third Miracle is to nourish the object of your attention with full awareness and appropriate attention.
“The Fourth Miracle is to relieve the suffering of others.
“The Fifth Miracle is looking deeply into the nature of self and others.
“The Sixth Miracle is understanding. If we are mindful of the present moment, we can see deeply and things become clear. With understanding, the desire to relieve suffering and give love will awaken within us.
“The Seventh Miracle is transformation. By practicing Right Mindfulness, we touch the healing and refreshing aspects of life and begin to transform the suffering in ourselves and in the world.
When beginning walking meditation, it’s probably best to start in your home or backyard. This helps keep you from being disturbed or distracted and so you feel completely safe. Keep your pace slow and steady to help keep you in the moment.
A walking meditation can also be invigorating and help build stamina. Another benefit is it can break up long periods of sitting that can lead to lethargy. It can also be a calming influence that settles down any emotional agitation and help relieve stress.
Take a few moments before you begin to just stand still to help anchor your awareness and your breathing. You can even close your eyes and do a scan of your entire body. Be aware of all the sensations and feeling throughout your body.
If, while practicing a walking meditation, something catches your eye or an overwhelming feeling occurs, then stop, until you can refocus and continue.
Remember, you aren’t going anywhere and stay in the moment. There is no failure and nothing to achieve.
Here are two sample walking meditations.
Step 1: Find an unobstructed space where you can walk for about ten feet. This is the instruction given in Satipatthana Sutta itself. It’s also recommended to walk in bare feet (if possible) as it brings more awareness to what happens in the body when you’re walking. Bring your awareness down to your feet. Notice the sensations here.
Step 2: Shift your weight from your left leg to your right leg. Lift your head and look straight ahead and hold your chest high. You can hold your hands loosely to the side or clasp them behind your back. Now begin the process of walking. Notice the weight distribution as you extend your right leg then your left.
Step 3: As the weight shifts forward, notice how the heel of your left leg begins to lift. Swing the left leg forward and repeat. At the end of the walking path, come to a complete stop and take a deep mindful breath. Now turnaround and walk the other way following the same practice.
To start with, practice for 5 minutes and gradually increase the duration.*Satipatthana Sutta, a widely studied discourse in Theraveda Buddhism, lays the foundation of mindfulness meditation practice. In Kaya Sutta, walking is one of the postures to be mindful of along with sitting, standing and lying down.
The Vietnamese monk Thich Nhat Hanh, mentioned above in the 7 miracles of mindfulness section, has a simplified approach to walking meditation. This one different from other techniques, and makes use of affirmations in order to produce positive mental states.
Walk slowly, with calmness and comfort.
Be aware of each move, of each step. Keep bringing your attention to the present moment.
Mentally repeat one of these verses, as you walk.
Breathing in “I have arrived”; Breathing out “I am home.”
Breathing in “In the here”; Breathing out “In the now.”
Breathing in “I am solid”; Breathing out “I am free.”
Breathing in “In the ultimate”; Breathing out “I dwell.”
Enjoy every step you take.
Kiss the earth with your feet, imprinting gratitude and love as you walk.
Walking in itself is a healthy physical activity. Walking meditation adds a spiritual aspect while helping to train your mind. Just keep in mind it’s not about going anywhere but, walking EVERY step.
Living in the present moment is really all we have isn’t? So, the ability to focus on the present is a powerful tool. Life is here and now, not in the past or in the future. It really is the only thing we can change or influence. To be free we must live in the now.