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 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
  • SLIM234
    I thank this article makes a good point, walking - 8/31/2013 1:35:49 PM
  • I, too, love to walk. Perhaps practicing the meditation routines by concentrating on the feet, etc., will help to prevent face-plants-in-th
    e-asphalt. - 8/26/2013 1:17:44 PM
  • I'd never seen this information. Thank you! - 8/12/2013 6:08:52 AM
  • I love to walk so on Monday I will try it. - 5/11/2013 4:01:14 PM
  • My son does meditation and has been encouraging me to join him. I shall share this article with him, for his comments, and also check out WildMind.org - 4/2/2013 12:13:40 PM
  • MARCIE1455
    My father who is 77 years old has found a beautiful place with a little pond where he walks everyday. He always prays there. I got an opportunity to walk there with him and it was fabulous and very peaceful. - 2/11/2013 1:35:31 PM
  • JACQUIEANN1
    off to try it now - 2/2/2013 8:48:56 PM
  • I have been looking for instruction on meditation for months, and the Wildmind.org link is wonderful! Finally! Thank you so much, SP!!! - 10/4/2012 11:24:32 AM
  • I have been Pole Walking for a few years now.
    What a wonderful way to get exercise, time alone with your thoughts, & a chance
    to meet people.
    I usually walk 10 miles at a time at least 3 days a week.
    My poles take the stress off the knees, I have a great rhythm as I move along, I love being outside enjoying nature. - 8/4/2012 8:42:34 AM

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