What is walking meditation?
Updated: Nov 6, 2021
Of all the types and styles of meditation, all the various approaches I have encountered over the past several years of study and practice, I find that my favorite is actually walking meditation. This is also my favorite meditation method to teach, because it is so simple and effective, and because it addresses the two major concerns people raise as an obstacle to their own potential meditative practice—“My mind is too busy,” and
“I can’t sit still!”
What if you didn’t have to be still? And what if we gave your mind two things to focus on? What might happen then…?
I learned walking meditation at two different mindfulness centers in Florida, as well as from my friend who is also a meditation teacher, Amanda O’Bryan.
Essentially, the instruction is this: walk fairly slowly, and center your mind in the sensation of your feet on the earth, coordinated with the breath. I like to walk so slowly that I feel the heel, instep, and toes each articulate along the ground, feel the steady rhythm of right to left coordinate with the rhythm of inhale and exhale—usually for me it is in: right, left, right; out: left, right, left–-but you will find your own pace. As we walk, our weight shifts forward and back very slightly, as well as right to left, we can feel the heel-to-toe movement, and if we are outdoors, the irregularity of the earth under our feet. I find it centering, and soothing. The hands are generally held steady, clasped in front of you, but pockets work fine, too. The gaze is generally forward and slightly down, but when walking outside, I think it’s okay to gradually notice more of your surroundings, as long as you able to also maintain the focus on the feet and the breath.
Because of the extra physicality of walking rather than seated meditation, it works especially well for people with sensory differences, ADHD, or just jittery nerves. Walking gives the mind a second focus, besides the breath. I find it good to walk in some sort of loop, whether around a room or garden, or a neighborhood, so my mind is not focused on arriving at a destination. But we can also use the technique of walking meditation even when we are walking to a destination—I use it between appointments, between errands. I will get out of my car and feel my feet on the ground, notice my breath, and focus just on those two things until I get where I’m going.
Try a little walking meditation this week, and let me know how it goes, friends!