Health & Wellness Articles

A Guide to Walking Meditation

Zen and the Art of Multitasking

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The word "meditation" is likely to conjure up a mental image of a cross-legged person sitting still in a quiet, peaceful room. While this is the method of choice for many who meditate, others choose a more active route to mindfulness. It's called walking meditation, and by doing it, you get to enjoy the benefits of walking (health and endurance) and meditation (awareness and mindfulness) simultaneously. Think of it as Zen and the art of multitasking.

Meditation of any type is simply a process of developing greater awareness and mindfulness. One of the main benefits of cultivating these qualities is that you become more content and fulfilled—the desire to reach outside of yourself (to material things, for example) to feel content or fulfilled diminishes. Besides this, there are other ways that meditation enhances health. It can also help:
  • Relieve symptoms of illness. A 2002 study reported in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine found that an eight-week mindfulness meditation program resulted in effective and lasting reductions in symptoms for participants with chronic illnesses.
  • Reduce high blood pressure. A year-long study, reported in the American Journal of Hypertension showed that daily meditation lowered blood pressure more than relaxation techniques and information about lifestyle changes. Read more here.
  • Relieve stress and improve mood. A study published in the February 2007 edition of Annals of Behavioral Medicine reported that while both mindfulness meditation and other relaxation interventions can both reduce distress and improve positive mood states, meditation may actually be more effective—especially at reducing distractive and ruminative thoughts and behaviors.
These general benefits of meditation can be applied to walking meditation too. In fact, many practitioners say that walking meditation actually helps them achieve even greater awareness than conventional meditation, and that it's even easier to reach a state of mindfulness and awareness while walking, as opposed to sitting still. And by combining meditation with physical activity, you're burning calories and getting fit at the same time.

The premise is pretty simple. In walking meditation, the act of walking is your focus. Instead of thinking about your best friend’s birthday party that you just attended, you think about the present experience of walking.

There are actually several ways to practice walking meditation (three examples are outlined below). You can try each to see which you prefer, or you can alternate between them whenever you choose.

Walking Meditation #1: Focus on Your Feet
This technique is very simple, making it great for beginners. In this method, the focus is your feet as they touch the ground. Your eyes are aimed a few steps ahead, and your mind is cleared of all thoughts and emotions extraneous to your keen awareness of each foot, as you place it on the ground. With each step, you focus your attention only on the contact of your foot with the ground, and when your mind wanders from this focus, you bring it back to your foot. You could actually practice this form in your own backyard, or even indoors, as you can walk in a circle or back and forth in a line.
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About The Author

Liza Barnes Liza Barnes
Liza has two bachelor's degrees: one in health promotion and education and a second in nursing. A registered nurse and mother, regular exercise and cooking are top priorities for her. See all of Liza's articles.

Member Comments

  • I would like to try labyrinths walking, but there are none near me. When the weather cools down a little, I might try walking on the beach. But right now, it's just way, way, way too hot. - 7/28/2015 10:41:09 AM
  • I have done this before. It is good to start out this way because it gets you to listen to your body. I used it to learn how to properly jog without hurting my back or calves too much and use my whole leg in proper motion. Once that becomes "muscle memory" than you can enjoy your surroundings :) - 5/29/2015 6:08:32 PM
  • Had to do this one as part of the Walkabout Challenge. Found it to be the dumbest assignment in the challenge and a total waste. Seriously, I find no value in focusing on the crap inside me when beauty and life is happening outside me. Instead of trying to walk with my head up my own butt, I would rather tune into the beauty around me and spend my walk raising my praise and gratitude to God, the ultimate artist. There are flowers, birds, butterflies, dogs playing, little kids our learning to ride bikes and hit balls teens doing tricks on their skateboards, and you expect me to be concentrating on how my walk makes my feet sore and how I feeeeel about it! Give me a break! - 4/10/2015 11:58:15 AM
  • ERIC108
    There is a walking meditation based on the technique of Love Breathing. It can be used as a type of loving-kindness walk. It helps establish a feeling of love flowing between you and all creation.
    Information at: http://www.walkin
    gmeditation.info - 3/2/2015 4:07:41 PM
  • I think you left out one type of walking meditation, and that is to be one with nature. There's no need to isolate yourself from nature. It's good to feel a part of it. Notice the color of the grass, are there clouds in the sky? Listen to the birds calling to one another, is the traffic starting to sound a little like music? Are your feet moving faster because your fitter, or you are at one with nature? - 2/12/2015 12:10:04 PM
  • This is an excellent article.....thank you! Although I walk for exercise and appreciation of beauty in the summer and fall, this is a different kind of walking and one that I will incorporate into my weekly regimen.
    - 2/12/2015 8:34:21 AM
  • JACIJUNE
    I think I'd just rather take a walk on the beach while the sun is setting and take in the view around me and be aware of how I move and try to relax. This seems like a lot of conscious concentration and not much relaxation. - 2/7/2015 3:00:56 PM
  • I already do a walking meditation and LOVE it. :) - 2/6/2015 6:26:51 PM
  • I am going to have to agree with EABL81 on this one. I live in the mountain area of Montana and all I need to do it focus on the beauty around me and I am transformed. Not that I can't give this a try but I feel like I am in quite a "meditative" state around here. I did walk a labyrinth in Hawaii once that was quite suited to this. Good luck everyone! - 2/6/2015 9:48:54 AM
  • I went into a deep meditation while walking automatically once when I was preparing for a MS Walk - a - thon. The actual walk was almost 10 miles...I ended up walking 16 miles or better by the time I was realized and I was backpacking it at the time. Be sure to have your cell just in case. I had a cell phone ,but turned off until it was needed. I want to get to that point again. - 6/22/2014 9:33:33 PM
  • Awesome just what I needed....Now time to get new sneakers!! - 4/23/2014 10:24:18 AM
  • Great stuff here but to be honest here in NY this would never work outdoors because you would either end up getting mugged or run over.
    I do though, get the "focus" part and how this would help your mind to wander away from not so happy things. Hence, a calmer and less stressful state.
    Thanks for sharing! - 10/12/2013 10:13:43 PM
  • Meditation will change your life. - 10/12/2013 1:58:02 PM
  • I guess I'm not very Zen. I love walking and see it as a way of relaxing and recharging through connection with nature. My usual and favorite paths are in the woods, or along the river. I tried the first technique described here a while ago (admittedly only once), and found that 1) I was very bored after 10 minutes, which evoked feelings of frustration, and 2) felt as though I was missing out on the very thing I find so calming and relaxing, that is being in the moment with nature. Watching the swallows' aerial dance above the river, listening to the calls and songs of the birds in the trees above me, the chatter of the squirrels, the sound of the wind moving through the leaves, the subtle changes in the light as it passes through the trees. Sorry, but my feet can't begin to complete with all of that! :-) - 10/12/2013 10:38:52 AM
  • Labyrinths are perfect for walking meditation. Find one near you by visiting World-Wide Labyrinth Locator on the Labyrinth Society website. http://labyrinthl
    ocator.com/ - 9/2/2013 8:54:10 AM

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