Walking Meditation Health Benefits
Walking meditation is about using the processes involved in walking for meditation purposes. It is a contemplative practice with a long history in Buddhism and is a variation of Vipasanna Meditation. The actual experience of walking becomes the focus of our attention increasing our mindfulness. Although it might seem easy to keep focused on the walking experience, it can actually be quite difficult. Our minds love to wander all over the place, so it takes discipline and practice to perform any type of meditation even such an active form as walking meditation. There’s more than one kind of walking meditation, however when you master one it is not difficult to learn the others.
Walking meditation can be a very spiritual experience
Walking meditation is quite different to sitting meditation. This may seem like an obvious statement but it is worth noting the differences. Firstly, our eyes are open during walking meditation. This one fact changes everything. When our eyes are closed it is easier to drift away from the outside world and look within. Walking requires us to not only see where we are going but also to actively pay attention so that we don’t fall over or get hit by a car!
Walking outside also exposes us to the impact of the elements – the sun, the rain, the wind- which don’t even come into play when we are engaged in a sitting meditation indoors. Even the sounds of other people, cars and machinery intrude on a walking meditation in a way that is limited when indoors.
However, walking meditation is easier than sitting meditation for most people in that they are more able to become very aware of their bodies while walking than when they sit still. We may have sensory awareness during a sitting meditation but it tends to be more subtle than the sensations we experience when walking. As a result, walking meditation can be a very spiritual experience. Not only can you learn to experience your body more profoundly than ever before, you can gain a great deal of pleasure from the experience.
Walking meditation requires a level path
Walking meditation doesn’t have to be a big deal. You can take micro opportunities to fit in a meditation. When you walk from your car to your workplace, you can fit in a few minutes walking meditation.
However, the ideal situation when you begin to learn how to meditate while you walk is to find an open space where you can walk without interruption for at least twenty minutes.
It is about becoming aware of your movement as you pay attention to the way your body moves as you take each step. Developing this focus helps you develop insight and thus is also a form of insight meditation. It is also known as ‘meditation in action’.
Walking meditation requires a level path, at least five to ten meters long so that you can walk back and forth on it. If you are a beginner, a teacher may well instruct you to be mindful of only one thing at a time such as the act of stepping.
Before you begin, stand still and pay attention to your posture, the feeling of your feet touching the ground. Let arms relax and hold your hands lightly in front of you. Set your eyes on a point around two meters ahead of you on the ground.
When you begin to walk, keep your focus on the soles of your feet. Be mindful as you take steps noting in your mind the words “stepping, stepping, stepping” or “left, right, left, right.” Initially, it can be helpful to walk more slowly than normal. After a short while, once you are comfortable, pay attention to two actions of stepping: stepping, putting down. Your teacher may next lead you to be mindful of the three main elements of taking a step: lifting your foot, pushing your foot forward, and putting your foot down. Focus on how each aspect feels. Once you are comfortable with this, in your mind, notice each component of your step, broadening your observation to four separate aspects: lifting your foot, pushing it forward, putting it down and pressing down your foot on the ground. Keep your awareness of these steps focused on the exact moment each of them are occurring.
Don’t worry if you begin to think of other things while you are walking. Just bring your focus back to your steps and keep on going. However, if your thoughts are intrusive or so deep you are not able to focus on your steps, stop your walk and become aware of your thoughts as ‘thinking’ before refocusing your attention on your steps.
When you first start practicing walking meditation, begin with twenty minutes, increasing it quickly to thirty minutes and then over time increase it to one hour. If you also do sitting meditation, it is a good idea to do your walking meditation before your sitting meditation. The combination of walking and sitting meditations can create balance in your life and increase your overall mindfulness.
Walking meditation can help to calm the mind
By paying close attention to your movements, you will automatically slow down and become more mindful. However, in order to gain these benefits from walking meditation, it is necessary to pay close attention to our movements. It is a valid meditation practice that can assist in our spiritual development. Many experts consider that it is a form of meditation that is as powerful as that of the ‘mindfulness of breathing’ or the ‘mindfulness of the rising and falling of the abdomen.’ However, for it to be effective it needs to be practiced regularly.
Walking meditation can help to calm the mind and improve our awareness in our daily lives. Many people who find sitting meditation difficult, find that they are able to practice walking meditation and develop their mindfulness. It can be a healing, balancing practice that improves the quality of life and outlook. As such, it is well worth learning and practicing.