Today we are talking Walking Meditation…
What it is, how to do it, and where to do it.
I will teach you two simple walking meditations, and guide you through the methods of each.
Thich Nhat Hahn is a Vietnamese monk and renowned Zen master. He is a poet and the author of many books including the best selling The Miracle of Mindfulness. He is also a peace activist and was nominated for the Nobel Prize by Martin Luther King in 1967. Dr. King described him as an apostle of peace and non-violence. His key teaching is that, through mindfulness, we can learn to live happily in the present moment—the only way to truly develop peace, both in one’s self and in the world. He says this…
“ Walk as if you are kissing the earth with your feet”
What is walking meditation…how is it different than just walking?
- It is slower than most walks
- It involves either involves focused coordinated breathing or focused and coordinated mindful practices such as sight, sound, or a phrase or a mantra that you focus on
- Your eyes are open and your body is moving
- The focus remains the same…that is, in your body
Where can we do walking meditations?
There are so many options as to place. My favorite and most peaceful place is in the forest surrounding by trees on a well-loved trail where sounds of nature abound, with no roads and cars in sight or earshot. Truthfully, you can do a walking meditation anywhere you are regardless of what is going on around you. The focus and coordination of breath (or another anchor) is the key. We are focusing in the body, letting thoughts, emotions, and physical sensations be, noticing….no action required to change or alter what is.
The speed or pace of your walk will be slower because you will be focusing on the breath and staying out of the “autopilot” that our mind and body can easily find while doing this mundane task of walking. Autopilot could easily reign supreme in the tasks in which we have carried out masterfully and altogether mindlessly for years. The slow speed supports the pace of awareness, allowing for Being mode.
Mindful Walking Meditation
Before beginning, take a moment to breathe deeply, perhaps setting an intention such as “ I am clear and present to life as it unfolds in every moment”.
While standing, feel the ground beneath your feet and fully connect with the earth beneath you.
Take a few moments to do a body scan noticing how your mind is operating and connect in with the expansiveness of your being…breathe a minute or so and notice what is happening in each of the following three areas:
- Thoughts… and your reactions to your thoughts
- Emotions….and your reactions to your emotions
- Physical sensations…your reactions to physical sensations.
Narrow your focus just for a moment…focus on your midsection, your torso for 3-4 slow, deliberate breaths.
Now, expand your focus noticing you, your entire body, and the space around you, noticing and accepting it all just as it is. Noticing how your body feels on a deep inhale and then on an equally as deep exhale.
Begin your walk:
Let your slow deep breathing guide your pace.
Just as in seated meditation, when your mind wanders, gently invite it back to body and breath.
Feel your feet touch the ground, the contraction of your muscles, and the constant adjustment your body creates for balance and your progression forward. Become aware of the steps your feet make: heel striking, the foot flat and the toeing off of each foot as it hits the ground in sequence.
Allow your awareness to move up from your feet gradually scanning all parts of your body from the feet to the ankles, to the legs, hips, pelvis, spine, chest, shoulder, arms, neck and head.
You may notice pain or discomfort or stiffness in your body. Attempt to notice first without attempting change for a few steps. Then if the discomfort remains, attempt some small adjustment one at a time. Notice how a speed change or arm swing alteration might alter the discomfort, stiffness, or pain. Pausing the reaction and just noticing between each adjustment.
You might focus on a sound such as a crow, squirrel,
Woodpecker or owl, notice the sounds of the space and environment you are in.
You might focus on sight with your head tilted slightly down, noticing small almost unrecognizable rocks, their coloring, wet or dry, dirt and patterns, holes, spaces or other happenings in your site along your path.
You might attend to the overall color of the space you are walking in or the color of the sky.
Notice sensations as you breathe in and let your surroundings come to you on a cellular level.
Notice the temperature of the air, the precipitation and where and how it touches your skin.
Notice all the details of your location and the space around you.
Always bringing your attention back to walking and breathing when the mind wanders into thoughts, emotions, reactions, lists, or general autopilot.
Become aware of your present mental and emotional state.
Are you frazzled, is the mind calm or busy, tired or amped up?
Two Simple Walking Meditations
1. Yogic Walking Meditation
Counting Breaths: This technique is rooted in the Yogic tradition of walking meditations and can be very useful for the intense wandering mind or just to try as an interesting alternative or complementary technique to mindful walking meditation:
Method #1 Inhale/Exhale
- Inhale for 4 steps
- Exhale for 4 steps
Method #2 Inhale, hold, exhale
- inhale 4 steps
- hold 4 steps
- exhale 4 steps
- hold 4 steps
2. Mantra Waking Meditation
Taking 2 or 3 steps for each in-breath and out-breath
Breathing in – “I am here” Breathing out- “I am present”
Breathing in- “I am here” Breathing out “ I am home”
Breathing in “ In the now” Breathing out “ I am home”
Breathing in “ In the now” Breathing out ” I am free”
Walking the talk…
Biography from Plum Village Website~
“Born in central Vietnam in 1926, Thich Nhat Hanh entered Tu Hieu Temple, in Hue city, as a novice monk at the age of sixteen. As a young bhikshu in the early 1950s he was actively engaged in the movement to renew Vietnamese Buddhism. He was one of the first bhikshus to study a secular subject at university in Saigon, and one of the first six monks to ride a bicycle.
When war came to Vietnam, monks and nuns were confronted with the question of whether to adhere to the contemplative life and stay meditating in the monasteries, or to help those around them suffering under the bombings and turmoil of war. Thich Nhat Hanh was one of those who chose to do both, and in doing so founded the Engaged Buddhism movement, coining the term in his book Vietnam: Lotus in a Sea of Fire.
His life has since been dedicated to the work of inner transformation for the benefit of individuals and society.
In 1961 he travelled to the United States to teach Comparative Religion at Princeton University and the following year went on to teach and research Buddhism at Columbia University. In Vietnam in the early 1960s, Thich Nhat Hanh founded the School of Youth and Social Service, a grass-roots relief organization of 10,000 volunteers based on the Buddhist principles of non-violence and compassionate action.”
I share his biography because he is a human that has walked his talk and I revere and actually believe people who have created their life as a practice to what they preach and who have made this life of practice of mindfulness accessible to all who choose to explore it. My gratitude to him for being that guiding light, and showing us how to walk the talk.
“Let go of your sorrows, let go of your worries. That is the secret of walking mediation.” Thich Nhat Hahn
Peace In ~ Peace Out
Are you subscribed to my podcast? If you’re not, I want to encourage you to do that today. I don’t want you to miss an episode. I’m adding a bunch of bonus episodes to the mix and if you’re not subscribed there’s a good chance you’ll miss out on those. Click here to subscribe in iTunes!
Now if you’re feeling extra loving, I would be really grateful if you left me a review over on iTunes, too. Those reviews help other people find my podcast and they’re also fun for me to go in and read. Just click here to review, select “Ratings and Reviews” and “Write a Review” and let me know what your favorite part of the podcast is. Thank you!