Most people think of walking as a way of getting from here to there, but the aim of walking meditation is to focus on the journey, moment by moment, step by step.
To do this you pay attention to the movements of the body, usually the feet or legs. Some people use the feel of the sun on their skin or the movements of their arm as the primary object of the practice. It helps if you keep your focus on the one thing throughout the practice, but try different objects of attention to see what works best for you.
Walking meditation is not only good exercise, it also helps us feel happier and less stressed because we stay focused on the present moment without our attention wandering incessantly to this that and the other.
Also, as we stay connected with our bodies we feel more connected with the whole of nature. As the walking meditation practice deepens, we feel more connected with the earth and its beauty. This is a joyful experience that makes us feel more at home in the world, and more peaceful. The chattering monkey mind becomes quieter (we’ve given it something to do] and we feel more a part of the world we walk on.
Some people like to repeat a mantra when they walk, or match their breathing with the steps.
Too Busy to Sit Still?
Walking meditation is an effortless way of bringing meditation into your everyday life. It is also wonderful when you are too busy to sit.
Imagine how many steps you take in a day, imagine using that time to meditate instead of ruminate. If you work in a busy office for example, you can practice walking meditation when you take a break to go to the bathroom or the water cooler, or you can incorporate the practice into your lunch time by taking a 15 minute walk around the block.
At home you can make walking meditation part of cleaning the house, or walking the dog. Do this by simply turning your attention to every step you take instead of getting caught up with your thoughts.
If you exercise regularly, either running or walking, try doing it mindfully. You will most likely need to learn to walk before you run but with practice you can bring meditation to virtually any activity simply by paying attention on purpose.
Walking meditation is simply keeping your attention focused on the movements of your body while you are walking. As you lift your foot to take a step, follow the movement of the foot with your awareness. Notice when the foot meets the ground and then switch to the other foot, noticing the way it moves.
Alternatively you can keep your attention focused on the soles of your feet, or if you are walking outside you can make the feel of the sun on your skin the primary object.
Regardless of where you put your attention, the aim is to stick with the one object and every time your mind wanders you simply and gently bring it back to whatever it is you are focusing on.
Slowing it All Down
If you are the sort of person that rushes from here to there with a million and one things going through your mind chances are you are stressing yourself out. Walking meditation might be just what you need.
You can always go back to the million and one things. They don’t seem to go away, but for just a few minutes a day let your mind rest while your body moves. Notice the thoughts that come up, the feelings. Notice any feelings of frustration; of feeling pressured.
If you are practicing indoors, slow things right down. Take each step very slowly, as slowly as you can without losing your balance. If you are out and about, you don’t need to slow down to the point of looking silly. Just slow it down a notch or two, and keep your attention focused on each step you take. Try it next time you go grocery shopping. Observe how it feels.
Keep Your Attention on Each Step
When you are practicing walking meditation, you are not trying to get any place, you are learning to enjoy life one moment at a time: learning to keep your awareness in the present moment.
In the same way you develop your attention by focusing on the breath in sitting meditation, you develop mindfulness in walking meditation by continually returning your attention to the practice.