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'm not sure if what i used to do is "walking meditation", but I know that I miss walking terribly and that I was always soothed for having walked. I could walk miles and miles without fatigue. I'm working up to being able to do that again.

    I heard something in a video once that exactly what walking is for me: my body grows strong, and my mind relaxes. - 2/12/2016 2:21:36 PM
  • RWRIGHT62
    Hi, due to some physical limitations I will be walking on a treadmill at the Y, I should be able to adjust the mental/meditation aspects to fit into that setting with a bit of change in thought to accommodate my location shouldn't I? Any tips for walking meditation on a treadmill that might be helpful? Thanks! - 1/23/2016 9:52:02 AM
  • DANDYLINES
    The word "meditation" is a trigger for some people. Some have been taught it is not Christian. Though that is certainly not true, other people think it is allowing bad thoughts to come in or have other fears about the process. If the word meditation has a negative meaning for you rephrase it to "stress reduction walking", or "calming walk", or "walking with intention".
    Consider reading one of Julia Cameron's books, especially "Walking in this World". One of her basic "rules" is to walk with intention. - 1/8/2016 9:54:21 AM
  • This is a challenge for me as I know undoubtedly I will have thoughts enter in as I am walking but giving me something to focus on will really help. I echo others that sometimes just being outside and in nature helps calm me and put me in a great mental state. I am definitely willing to try this and see where it leads me...maybe later today even as I just finished my morning workout :) - 12/4/2015 9:04:19 AM
  • There are 2 Number 2 and no number 3.
    did this not bother anyone else? - 11/9/2015 5:56:06 PM
  • I read this after my walk today. My favorite part is focusing on my surroundings, such as grass, trees, sky, chirping birds, and the sun on your face. I love the sun on my face. Taking a lunch time walk breaks up the day and allows me to refocus. There's a peace that comes from walking. - 11/4/2015 3:13:25 PM
  • The two components of all meditation are relaxation and concentration; what differentiates one form from another is the object of concentration. I had severe ADD as a child (and young adult) and meditation did me worlds of good in making me able to control that (and I got other very good benefits from it too). I studied meditation as a martial artist, and did it simply by focusing my attention totally on my movement. Walking meditation is similar to that, but easier. You can also do driving meditation, housekeeping meditation, working meditation, and so on. The work ethic could be called the meditation of the western world (though not everyone who works does it): you just keep your mind focused on your task (or pay attention to what you're doing as they used to say). I got that idea after reading an article about a form of movement meditation practiced in China that imitated the movements of a worker in a silk factory. Self hypnosis is another very useful form of meditation I got a lot of good out of (but that's a different subject). - 9/3/2015 9:32:54 AM
  • ETHELMERZ
    I like to walk, gives me time to worry at my own pace, and not hurry the thought process. - 9/3/2015 7:26:51 AM
  • 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
  • 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

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