I first came across walking meditation on retreats in which no physical yoga was practised. It was alternated with periods of seated meditation in blocks of 45 minutes - a welcome break - walking mindfully back and forth in silence over the same short distance outdoors.
In everyday life, walking meditation takes just a few minutes and is a wonderful alternative to classical seated meditation, especially if you spend most of your time indoors and really feel the need to get outside and move. It's literally a breath of fresh air, clearing the mind and giving an instant dose of calm and perspective. It lifts our mood.
It's also an effortless way of fitting regular meditation into a daily schedule and therefore strengthening its benefits. A friend of mine once told me that she used her morning walk to work through St James' Park (in London) as her meditation. This was her time to nurture daily balance, clarity and gratitude while experiencing the oscillating beauty of nature through each season.
Here's how (audio version below):
Find your spot outside in nature, with a clear path ahead. (You can either walk back and forth over the same short distance - say 15-20 metres - or just straight ahead in one direction). If you are on grass or on a beach, walking barefoot is gorgeous.
Before you begin, stand still for a moment. Pause. Consciously put the rest of your day and the world to one side. This time is for you.
Set a timer if you wish – for anywhere between 5 minutes if you’re a beginner, to 20 minutes or longer if you are used to walking meditation.
Become aware of your natural breathing, wherever you feel it in your body. Stay with it - mind on the breath. Feel and accept it as it is. No need to control or change it.
Focus your eyes gently ahead, the gaze slightly lowered.
If you wish, loosely clasp your hands behind your back. Otherwise, allow your arms to move freely by your sides.
When you are ready, begin to walk - slowly.
Take comfortable, even steps.
With each step, feel the changing contact between the sole of your foot and the ground beneath you. Feel the changes in balance as the body moves. Feel your constant connection to the earth, with each footprint that you make.
Walk peacefully, joyfully. There is no goal, no destination.
As you walk, be aware of anything that touches your senses - sounds, smells, colours, textures. Observe it, like a witness, without judging or analysing.
Whenever the mind wanders and thoughts arise, gently bring it back to the physical sensation of each step you take, to your constant connection to the earth.
When your time is up, stand still. Close or lower your eyes for a moment. Be aware of your natural breathing. Notice how you feel refreshed and peaceful, reconnected with your inner wisdom and at one with all that is.
Know that this feeling is within you always and there for you whenever you need it.
When you are ready, open your eyes and take this feeling with you for the rest of your day.
The audio version is here:
Meditation is in truth higher than thought. The earth seems to rest in silent meditation; and the waters and the mountains and the sky and the heavens seem all to be in meditation. Those who attain greatness on this earth, have their reward according to their meditation - Chandogya Upanishad
I do hope you enjoy your experiences with walking meditation. If you feel you benefit from it, please share this post with colleagues, friends and family who could also find it to be a positive part of their life.