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A Guide to Walking Meditation

Zen and the Art of Multitasking

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Walking Meditation #2: Focus on the Six Sensations
The second way to practice walking meditation is similar to the first, with a slight variation in focus. Once you've mastered the first technique, you'll be ready for a little more challenge. You focus only on the sensations of your feet, noticing the pattern of lifting, pushing, and dropping of your feet as you walk. Eventually you will notice all six of the components of walking—raising, lifting, pushing, dropping, touching, and pressing. As you walk, you will notice that your mind will inevitably wander from this focus. The skill you work to develop is to refocus your awareness to the sensations of your feet, observing each component, each time it takes place. You can even chant the components softly as you walk. Obviously, a walking meditation beginner would probably not be able to power walk, as the goal of walking meditation is to calm the mind, not send it spinning.

Walking Meditation #2: Focus on the Four Foundations
The third way to practice walking meditation is a little more complicated than the previous two, as there are several steps to follow:

To begin, stand solidly on the ground. Spend a minute or two taking note of how your body feels, and what mental state you are experiencing. As you begin your walk, practice focusing on each of the following four foundations, one at a time:
  • Physical sensations. How does each part of your body feel? Start with the soles of your feet, and progress upward, relaxing each body part as you become aware of it. The point is not to think about why your shoulders are tense (let those thoughts go) but to simply relax them.
  • Feelings. A feeling is your initial reaction to a sensation. When you hear a song on the radio that you don't like, your feeling is dislike or displeasure, for example. A feeling usually leads to an emotional response (in this example, anger or annoyance). Learning to separate your emotions from their feelings is a powerful tool. This foundation can help you to develop the power to observe a feeling for what it is, and eventually maintain more control over your emotional reaction to it.
  • Mental and emotional states. Notice your state of mind. Is it calm or busy, cloudy or focused? Also notice your emotions as you experience them. Anger if someone comes too close while passing you, anxiety if you think of a huge project you need to finish, happiness at the sight of a puppy. Becoming aware of your present mental and emotional states strengthens your ability to be in and focus on the moment.
  • Objects of consciousness. Inevitably, random thoughts will surface as you are trying to clear your mind and focus on these foundations. As you become aware of your emotions and thoughts, try to sort them into categories—thoughts to keep and thoughts to toss. Realize which thoughts lead to negative emotions and which lead to positive ones.
Slowly ease out of the practice by allowing yourself to notice your surroundings, such as grass, trees, sky, chirping birds, and the sun on your face. To end the practice, gradually come to a stop, and become aware of the feeling of standing still again. Notice how you feel now, compared to how you felt when you started. Take your newfound awareness and calm with you for the rest of your day. Because this technique is more complex than the first two, you may wish to be guided through it. You can purchase a meditation CD (WildMind.org is a great resource) that will guide you through each foundation, including beginning and ending the practice.
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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 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
  • SLIM234
    I thank this article makes a good point, walking - 8/31/2013 1:35:49 PM

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