The very idea of walking meditation seems counter-intuitive to many. After all, we envision the calm meditator sitting in posture, eyes closed, by a still pond. However, for a quick solution to sleepy states while in sitting meditation, or maybe breaking up longer periods of meditation at a retreat, walking meditation can be a nice change of perspective.
Walking Meditation, Really?
Walking meditation is just what it sounds like: walking in a straight line (usually) and using your concentration to focus on the movement. If you haven’t read the article yet on Noting and Labeling, it describes in detail the method used below.
When picking a spot, it’s best to choose a length of space, inside or outside, that’s longer than the average room in a home. A hallway is ideal, or the span of two connecting rooms. Walking outside is also pleasant, in nice weather and secluded spots (to avoid looking like a zombie.)
Walk Slowly and Deliberately
To begin, adopt a fuzzy gaze, looking about ten feet ahead, but not focusing directly on any distant objects in your line of sight. You must see where you’re walking, of course, but without the distraction of phenomena that might elicit stray thoughts or emotions.
Now, begin to walk VERY slowly by only raising one foot up, moving it forward slightly, and placing it back down, one step ahead of its original position. Shift your weight to the other foot and repeat the process.
You Can Focus on Breath, OR…
Thoughts will arise during this meditation, much like sitting meditation, and again we’ll gently return our focus, only this time we concentrate on the movement.
As you move slowly forward in this manner, you are going to gently “label” each movement to sharpen your focus on the process. Remember, this is an act of mindfulness. You can begin your labeling simple, as it’s less to remember. Try with the right foot…
- “Raising” and then,
- “Planting” or “Lowering”
Then switch feet. My routine has become more involved:
- “Moving” (forward)
- “Shifting” (weight to other foot)
And so forth. Changing directions can produce a new set of labels, too.
- “Pivot” etc.
And hopefully you will recognize you’ve come to the end of your span and need to turn. Outside, you could walk the perimeter of a building, so the turns require less effort. I’ve walked ponds and garden paths, each needing their own set of labels and levels of attention.
What is the Goal of Walking?
Walking meditation definitely has its detractors because it’s not viewed as typical sitting meditation, with the connotations of calm and serenity. But I like walking for the change of pace, but also we are beginning to transfer our mindfulness to daily, waking life.
Technically, you can make almost anything part of your mindfulness practice, and that’s really the point of all this training. We are striving to maintain awareness of every present moment, to create space around arising thoughts and react mindfully instead of reflexively.