Health & Wellness Articles

A Guide to Walking Meditation

Zen and the Art of Multitasking

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By Liza Barnes, Health Educator         
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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

  • Meditation is great for me! - 4/8/2016 10:48:25 AM
  • I think I'm going to try doing this at work as it gets nicer. I get so stressed and feel so alone and like an outcast at work so maybe this will help with my mindset. - 3/24/2016 5:12:33 PM
  • Good article. I tried this meditation walking n loved it. It was easy for me as I do meditation every day and while walking I always do naam smaran (repeating the name of my guru) hence this kind of awareness walking was refreshing for me :) - 3/18/2016 10:39:51 PM
  • good share but to much work for me i just put on my shoes and head out the door enjoy the sites say my Rosary some days I can say two and walk my loop which is a mile. just getting restarted after winter and just doing the stationary bike in the gym or while the washer ran . - 3/6/2016 12:03:20 PM
  • I mostly focus on posture when I walk, but as I do most of my walking at the beach, I'm also taking in my surroundings and enjoying the calmness and solitude of having very few people around me. - 3/4/2016 4:03:04 PM
  • Been so focused on walking as exercise that I had forgotten the meditative part. I used to be part of a group that did Vipassana and incorporated that into a walking meditation. It was beautiful. Am grateful for the reminder that all my walking doesn't have to be only exercise. - 2/21/2016 4:27:46 PM
  • 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

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