When people think of meditation, they usually envision someone (like a Buddhist monk) seated cross-legged, eyes closed with their hands in some kind of yogic mudra on their thighs. However, there are many ways to meditate, many involving movement! One more common meditative practice, although not all would immediately identify it as meditation, is the physical practice of yoga. But did you know that the simple act of walking can become a meditative practice? Anything can become a meditation with the right frame of mind and focus.
For some people, movement helps with focus. If you’re the type of person who likes to pace when they’re thinking or enjoys fidgeting while writing or working, then walking meditation may be a great practice for you! There are great advantages to both walking and meditation - from improving mental health to managing chronic conditions - so why not combine the two to maximize health and wellbeing?
While you’ll reap the most benefits of performing walking meditation outside, you can easily do this practice in the comfort of your own home! The key is finding a quiet place to walk and to focus on the sensations in your body as you walk to enter a relaxing and meditative state. Set aside anywhere from 10 minutes to an hour for this practice.
1. Before beginning, take a moment to draw in three full, deep breaths through the nose, breathing in the air around you and tuning into your environment. If you are outside, take a moment to close your eyes and feel the sun and/or breeze on your face.
2. As you start to move, walk at a natural pace at first. Place your hands where you want them: on your stomach, behind your back or by your sides.
- If you find it useful, you can count the steps up to 10 and then start over at one. If you're in a small space, when you hit ten, pause and intentionally pick a time to turn around.
- With each step, pay attention to the rise and fall of your foot. Notice the movements of your legs and the rest of your body. Notice any movement of your body from side to side.
- Whatever catches your attention, return to the feeling of walking. Your mind will wander, so without frustration guide it back to the sensation of walking as many times as you need to.
3. Now, for a few minutes, focus your attention on the sounds around you. Whether you're indoors, in the woods, or in a city, pay attention to sounds without labeling or naming. Try not to judge whether you find the sounds pleasant or unpleasant and notice that sounds are neither more nor less than sounds.
4. Shift your awareness to your sense of smell for a few minutes. Again, just notice. Don't force yourself to feel anything, just draw attention to the sense of smell, whatever you discover.
5. Now move on to vision: colors and objects and whatever else you see. Patiently come back anytime something grabs your attention, or even if something needs to be addressed, like avoiding an obstacle. Stay natural, not too rigid, not dreaming and drifting, but with a sustained awareness.
6. Lastly, think about tastes. This doesn’t mean physically tasting your surroundings, but more so how the air around you tastes. You can also assess whether the air feels dry or damp on the mouth.
Keep this awareness open to everything around you, wherever you are. Nothing to do, nothing to fix, nothing to change. Fully aware and walking mindfully.
7. In the final moments, come back to awareness of the physical sensations of walking, wherever your mind has been found throughout the practice. Notice that your feet are touching the ground again. Notice your body movements again with each step.
You are also welcome to stop at some point and find a place to sit and write a poem, draw, paint, or any other silent activity you wish. When you have finished, download our 5-senses journaling activity and journal your experience and whatever came to mind during your walking meditation.