Switch Up Your Practice With Walking Meditation

Peace is every step
— Thich Nhat Hanh

I know that sitting meditation is not for everyone. We may experience backaches, restlessness, agitation and boredom. Besides, no matter who you are, you can’t sit all the time. For those who find it virtually impossible to stay seated and mindful with the levels of pain and distraction, you can certainly try walking with it.

Essentially sitting and walking meditations are the same practice. What is important is your mind state. In walking meditation, you’re not walking to get to a place. Most of the time, it is just back and forth in a short distance or loop around and around. The idea is for you to focus on the footfall as a whole; or isolated segment of the parts of the foot such as the heel, metatarsal and toes. You can also focus on the separate segment of the motion like shifting, moving, placing. While attending to the movement, you can couple an awareness of walking with an awareness of breathing. Here’s the challenge, can you be fully with this step, with this breath?

The speed of your pace can be slow or brisk. The idea is to take each step as it comes and be fully present with it. The advantage of having no place to go makes it easier to be where you are. This means feeling the very sensation of your feet touching the ground and shifting in motion.

Just like sitting meditation, things will come up which will pull your attention away. It’s important to give yourself positive reassurance every time you catch yourself mindlessly drift away. ‘Good job for coming back to your breath.’ ‘ That’s it, keep your attention back on your steps.’ By giving positive re-enforcement, your mind will stay focused much more willingly.   

It’s best to practice walking mediation in a place where you won’t be disturbed. Good places are your living room, fields or a clearing in the woods. You can also practice informally anywhere. Informal walking meditation doesn’t involve pacing back and forth, but just walking normally. This is convenient if you’re walking along a sidewalk, walking with children, down a corridor at work or walking your dog. Simply remind yourself to be completely present in this moment. With each step you take, you’re accepting each moment as it comes.

Try: While you’re walking, appreciate the fact that you’re able to walk. Don’t take your body for granted. Bring awareness to your strides and walk with dignity. Ten minutes or half-hour is sufficient. Remember, it is not clock time we are concerned with here. A minute of being fully present, is much more powerful than hours of mindless wandering.

I Walk in Beauty

In Beauty I walk.

With Beauty before me, I walk

With Beauty behind me, I walk

With Beauty above me, I walk

With Beauty all around me, I walk

With Beauty within me, I walk

In Beauty, it is finished.

- Navajo