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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 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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