How to Practice Walking Meditation – Melli O’Brien
Like any other meditation, walking meditation should be a purposeful act.
Most of the time, when we are walking, we tend to ‘daydream’.
We may start planning what we’ll make for dinner, or wondering how the presentation will go next week or we may ruminate over our recent problems or upsets.
Instead of letting this happen, come to your walking meditation with the same attitude you would any meditation practice: with the intent to keep your mind in the present and in focus.
Step 1. Preparation
Before you even begin walking, stop and take three deep slow conscious breaths. Take a moment to bring the fullness of your awareness into the present moment.
Step 2. Body Awareness
After your three breaths, begin to walk and pick one area in your body which you can focus your awareness. Your feet are a good place to begin.
Notice how the ground feels under each foot as you put it down. Notice how the pressure of all your weight as it shifts from the heel to the ball of the foot. Pay attention to any other sensations in the feet as you move. Keep the focus here for a couple of minutes.
As you continue to walk, gradually move your awareness up to each body part in turn—ankles, calves, knees, thighs, hips, buttocks, abdomen—all the way up to your head. Notice the feelings, the sensations in each body part in turn pausing on each for 2-5 minutes.
Once you’ve considered each body part in turn, bring your awareness to your entire body as a unified whole. As you walk, you may notice all the muscles involved in keeping you moving—how the weight shifts, the joints bend, the arms swing, the breath goes in and out.
You may feel wind blowing on some parts of the skin or the warmth of sunshine. Continue for a while walking with whole body awareness.
Step 3. Awareness Within
After you practice whole body awareness for some time you can turn your awareness to your inner environment –any emotions or possible thoughts (if any) that may be present. Simply notice what is present in a non-judgmental way. There is no need to start an internal dialogue about what you notice. Just observe.
Step 4. Awareness Without
As you move on, now expand your attention outward – to your surroundings and to yourself in relation to your environment. Are you crunching through leaves? Do birds scatter as you approach? Perhaps you’re in the city, and you have to stop occasionally to let cars pass by, or you notice the scent of fresh baked bread as you pass a bakery.
Step 5. Enjoy The Deliciousness of Expanded Awareness!
Finally, expand your awareness of what ever is arising in the space of your consciousness. Take in the totality of the present moment in both the internal and the external environment– observing each in relation to the other.
Neither cling to nor being swept up in any ‘thing’ that enters awareness. Remain focused simply on being the space in which these things arise. Observe it all as a detached witness. Aim to maintain the position of a silent witness to all of your experience as you continue to walk. Take note of any subtle feelings of peace joy and delight that naturally arise when your fully present in life!
When I practice my own walking meditation, I aim to remain aware throughout. I watch for any slip of attention, for when my mind has become lost in thinking. That is, that I am no longer ‘aware’ of the thought processes arising and passing away in my consciousness– I’ve actually slipped into autopilot. When I notice that it has happened, I physically stop. I freeze on the spot and take a conscious deep breath.
Then I return to my practice with full awareness. I have found this to be a powerful addition to my walking meditation and it seems to be very effective in helping me to stay engaged in my meditation every step of the way.
Bringing Meditation into Every Day Walking Activities
Taking deliberate time out for walking meditation is a powerful way to practice, but you don’t have to necessarily take extra time out of your schedule. You can engage in walking meditation as you leave the house and head for the bus, as you walk from one end of a building to the other, or walking from the back of the parking lot to the grocery store.
Walking meditation is just one of the ways to truly make meditation a part of your daily life. It’s a wonderful practice for those who are busy people and may not have extra time to set aside for sitting meditations.
Instead of making meditation an occasional practice that’s separate from the other things you do, walking meditation can make it a part of many things you do throughout your day. In this way, you can cultivate mindfulness and carry it with you wherever you may go.