The Buddhist tradition has incorporated walking meditation as a form of mindfulness for centuries. Sitting meditation often focuses on the breath while walking meditation asks that we pay attention to our body’s movement as a focal point (though breathing can be a component). Walking meditation is a type of mindfulness self-care that can have full body benefits and a few separate focuses, depending on the intention you begin your practice with.
To help ground yourself in your practice, you can begin with a topic in mind. Maybe you’ll begin with wanting to connect with nature, or because you simply want to relax. Maybe you’re trying to refocus, slow down a racing, worried mind, or pinpoint where your physical or emotional pain is coming from by turning all your attention to your body.
To begin a walking meditation, it’s recommended that you have a finite area of space to move within. You can situate yourself in your backyard, an outdoor path of any kind, or indoors in an uncluttered room or hallway. You can also incorporate this exercise into short walks throughout the day, like your walk from your office desk to the bathroom, or the walk to your car from work. For this exercise, you are walking to be aware, not walking to reach any particular destination.
First, turn off any electronics, and take stock of your environment and your thoughts
- What have you done so far today?
- What has your emotional state been like?
- What does the energy in this space feel like?
- Do you feel at home here, or clear-headed?
Begin with one foot, being aware of the sensation of each component of your step.
Then, be aware of your foot touching the ground, and your full range of motion.
- What does contact with the ground feel like?
- Where do your muscles tense, and where do they relax?
If you are outdoors, you can monitor the feeling of the wind on your skin and whether it is warm or cool. Often we think about the motion of going for a walk and feeling accomplished at the end, but what does it feel like for your body to be aware of each individual motion of walking?
Your thoughts might wander, and that is okay! Simply acknowledge that thoughts have slipped in, and refocus on your breathing. You can access walking meditation scripts, like this one, or even find podcasts that will walk you through guided questions.
There are an array of health benefits to routine walking meditation. If you’re someone who sits down for hours of the day at work, walking meditation increases blood flow throughout your body. It also helps food move through your digestive system. In terms of mental health, studies have shown routine walking meditations helped both alleviate anxiety and depression, as well as stimulate creativity.
Meditation can be for everyone and practiced in any form that works best for you!
“A Beginner’s Guide to Walking Meditation.” Chopra, Mindfulness Exercises, 1 Aug. 2019, chopra.com/articles/a-beginners-guide-to-walking-meditation. Accessed 16 June 2022.
Cronkleton, Emily. “Walking Meditation’s 10 Benefits for Mood, Sleep & More.” Healthline, 1 Apr. 2020, www.healthline.com/health/walking-meditation#digestion.
Prakhinkit, Susaree, et al. “Effects of Buddhism Walking Meditation on Depression, Functional Fitness, and Endothelium-Dependent Vasodilation in Depressed Elderly.” The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, vol. 20, no. 5, May 2014, pp. 411–416, 10.1089/acm.2013.0205.
Smookler, Elaine. “A Guided Walking Meditation to Connect with Your Senses.” Mindful.org, Mindful, 24 Aug. 2020, www.mindful.org/a-guided-walking-meditation-to-connect-with-your-senses/.
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