Meditation and mindfulness techniques cultivate awareness of the present moment. This includes awareness and understanding of what arises (and passes away) in both our inner and outer worlds. Studies have shown that a regular and long term meditation practice allows individuals to meet what arises in daily life with calmness and equanimity. These personal qualities can be particularly useful when facing challenging and uncertain times.
There are many different types of meditation that can be enjoyed while sitting, lying down, or even while walking. Common meditation practices may include breath awareness, loving kindness meditation, or the use of mantras or focus words to cultivate concentration and mental clarity. We have a specific article for a gentle daily meditation guide here. But in this article we would like to introduce to you, walking meditation.
Walking meditation is an ancient mindfulness technique that can be practiced anywhere. The entire focus is on awareness of each foot as it touches the earth. It is a practice of grounding in the present moment while integrating mind-body awareness in relation to the surrounding environment. In the Zen Tradition of Buddhism, Thich Nhat Hahn invites practitioners to walk as if they are kissing the earth with each step. With care and attentiveness it is possible to walk with peace, joy and serenity as our feet meet the ground.
If you are interested in trying walking meditation, here are a few tips to get started. It can be very beautiful to practice walking meditation outside in a natural landscape or in a garden. However, it is also possible and very nourishing to practice walking meditation inside the home or office, while waiting at the airport, or anytime you take a step.
Connect with your breath While standing still, take a few moments to bring attention to your breath. Notice your inhale and exhale. Is it long, is it short? Can you feel the air entering your nostrils? Your lungs? Take note of how your breath is.
Bring Attention to Your Feet As you begin to walk, move your attention to each foot as it touches the earth. Notice which part of the foot touches the ground first. Consider if your feet are moving fast, slow, softly or with heaviness? How does the motion of your movement change if you slow down or speed up the pace? Can you feel each toe as you walk? Does the ground feel soft or hard as your foot touches it? Take a few deep breaths and enjoy the sensations that you notice while walking.
Synchronise Breathing and Walking Now, as you inhale, move the left foot off the ground. As you exhale place your foot back on earth. Do the same as you move the right foot in time with your breath. Inhale the foot moves up. Exhale the foot moves down. For a few more steps, move in harmony with each breath. See how it feels to move in synchronicity and allow the natural and effortless inhale and exhale guides your movement. You may notice that the pace of your walking slows down.
As you continue to combine your movement with each breath, expand your attention to the sounds, sights, sensations and smells around you. This is particularly enjoyable while practicing walking meditation outside. Are the birds singing? Is the air cool? Can you smell the pollen in the flowers? Are the trees rustling in the wind? How is the sky? Take a few moments to appreciate what is around you while you are walking and breathing.
As you practice walking meditation try to let go of any ideas of the past and the future and enjoy the present moment. Remember that walking meditation is not about doing something - it is about a way of being. See if you can touch the feeling of walking with a sense of freedom while radiating peace and joy with each step.