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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.

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