Walking meditation has many facets; it can be considered
simply as an alternative posture. Unless you are very lucky, sitting
for more than an hour or so is quite physically difficult - there
is a need to unravel the bones and muscles. Yoga and tai chi are good
for this but walking is an easily developed technique which can maintain
the direct thread of one's meditation. If you can give the time, extended
periods of formal meditation are usually very fruitful and when you
do change posture it is good to reflect on how the mind shifts with
that change. There is a tendency to divide meditation into sitting
and, 'all the rest.' The encouragement is to maintain mindfulness
in all four postures; sitting, standing, walking and lying down. This
does take quite some practice and the use of structured exercises
is very supportive in establishing a strong internal sense of just
what mindfulness is.
As with any meditation technique it is important to set
up boundaries. The overall idea being to determine an object
of meditation for a determined amount of time. With breath meditation
one might say: 'Now I determine to watch the breath for 40 minutes.'
With walking meditation the path one selects creates the boundary.
One chooses a stretch of (relatively) level ground - about 20 to 30
paces long - and marks either end in some way. This can be with sticks
or rocks or piles of leaves - anything will do as long as it is quite
clear. Between two trees is a traditional path but these are not readily
come by so well placed. If you find walking useful and think to do
a lot then you can build a path with brick edging and gravel or bark
floor - or whatever materials you have to hand. The advantage the
boundaries of a walking path have over say those of breath meditation
is that they are much more tangible. If you were walking between two
trees you would be conveniently reminded that you had lost mindfulness
when you got to the end of the path and bent your nose against the
The defined nature of a path helps contain the mind and the tendency
Begin at one end of the path. Bring attention to the body. You could
spend a few moments doing 'body sweeping' [see: SAMATHA].
Feel a sense of balance - both internal and external. Determine how
long you will walk for. Let go of expectations. Relax. The usual suggestion
is to maintain the focus on the feelings at the soles of the feet
- this helps define the boundary further. There is the possibility
of distraction, and one can get caught in looking at the clouds or
the flowers or the birds, etc.. Walk with eyes downcast, looking about
three paces ahead. Proceed at a 'normal' pace. Get to the end of the
path - stop - turn around - stop - begin walking. Try this for at
least 15 minutes. An hour is good too.
You can experiment with the point of focus. The swing of the arms
- or just the hands. The balance of the head (as in walking with a
book on top of). Try keeping attention on the sensation of 'the whole
body walking'. Or, the sensations of the wind or the sun on the body.
Or joining walking with breath meditation. Try walking very slowly,
noting each shift of the body, the positions of the feet and legs.
You could formularise this: lifting left leg, stepping forward, reaching,
lowering, placing, transferring weight, etc. If you are limited by
space - especially if you are indoors - you could try circumambulating
a room. You could do this with a group of people - there is no leader
and a need to be sensitive to the group energy / speed. You could
combine walking with chanting (it is fairly common for monastics to
learn their chanting on the walking path). Try noting the beginning,
middle and end of each length of the path (as with the breath). Note
the intention to stop (easy, as it is signed by the end of the path);
the intention to turn around (not so easy as it is only signed by
a movement of the mind).
It is good to develop personal boundaries or a style and just work
with that. Be careful of the butterfly practice - 5 minutes of this,
a bit of the other, etc. Be clear that you are being clear.
your session up with the attitude of having nothing to get and, literally,
nowhere to go. You can just enjoy a walk. Relax.
Adjust the pace to suit your state of mind. Walk
vigorously when drowsy or trapped in obsessive thought - like worry,
anger, fear. If you are restless or impatient maintain a firm, gentle
and steady pace. Get a sense of your internal energy and then set
a pace to balance that.
Walking can be
an occasion for insight.
As a good portion of the thinkery is involved in keeping the body
upright and forwarding, thought tends to be reduced and the mind can
shift into 'neutral' quite easily. It is often into this 'doing nothing',
letting it be' space that insight will arise.
walking practice with 'every day' walking. Bring the sense of composure,
containment, focus, etc. into your mind as you walk from your bedroom
into the kitchen - down the road - in the shops (especially the eyes
downcast part). This will greatly support your mindfulness in 'the