Thursday, February 3, 2011


Most people don't know how to walk. Sad but true.

“Walking meditation is an art!” writes Martine Batchelor. “You are not going anywhere, you are walking just for the sake of walking.”
Walking Meditation helps to foster calmness, relaxation ... and, most importantly, awareness. As with all Mindfulness, the “key” is to be aware as you walk.

Walking meditation
is meditation in action, using the natural movement of walking to foster mindfulness. It is the bare experience of walking.
For many, including myself, walking meditation is the preferred form of Mindfulness Meditation, and ordinarily should precede a sitting meditation as it centres the mind.
How does walking meditation differ from “normal” walking? Well, walking meditation is similar to "normal" walking but it is considerably slower, as well as deliberate, intentional and mindful.
Now this is important. Walking meditation is not physical exercise but wakeful presence.
In order to engage in walking meditation, first choose a quiet place without distractions. It may be indoors or outdoors.

All you need is a short path, which doesn’t have to be a “path” per se but simply one you “create”, so to speak, by walking backwards and forwards ... or, if you prefer, in a circular fashion.

The path should be some 3-10 (preferably around 6) metres in length, must have a definite “start” and “end”, and its surface should be flat and even.
Walking meditation has been described as “walking with presence and mindfulness”. It is a wonderful means to connect mind and body with the here and now, for it keeps one centered in the present moment.
Begin by standing at the beginning of your path.

Start with a “standing meditation” (“Standing, standing”) for a minute or two.

The focus is on your body ... not your breath ... in a walking meditation.

Feel the sensation of your feet “pressing” against the floor/earth. Does it feel hard or soft? Warm or cold? Feel the whole body standingand later slowly and gently turning (“Turning, turning”) ... with awareness.
Focus your attention minutely and purposefully on each action. Remember, you are not going anywhere ... you are just walking.
In sitting meditation the focus of attention is the breath. However, in walking meditation the focus of attention is the moving body.
Walk barefooted or with socks only preferably.

Now begin to walk slowly.

Focus on each step.

Feel each step as it comes. Be fully present with each step.

Notice every sensation of the walking process.

Walk “flat-footed”. Place the foot down flat … heal first … toes later.  

“Left, right, left, right …” Steps short … about 15- 20 cm apart.
Maintain correct posture in the standing position ...

Walk mindfully … eyes half-open ... looking straight ahead (not around). Your pace should ideally be very slow to brisk.
Note (and mentally note or label, at least at the beginning) the lifting of the heal (“lifting”), the forward movement (“pushing”), and the placing of the foot down (“putting” or “dropping”).

Over time, you can build up to noting all 6 component parts of each step ... concurrent with the actual experience of the various movements ... raising”, “lifting”, “pushing”, “dropping”, “touching”, and “pressing”. Be aware of the contact between your foot and the ground.
Allow some 60 per cent of your “tension” to dissipate through your feet ... with the remaining 40 per cent dissipating in the non-resistant “zone of airspace” in front of you, into which you are constantly entering.
Feel the airspace in front of you as yours to feel, enter and embrace. Feel its non-resistance, emptiness and friendliness.

Be gentle with yourself. Say to yourself, interiorly, “Be well” ... sending out loving kindness to others and yourself.
Walk through this airspace mindfully but gracefully, effortlessly and without resistance ... for such is its nature.

At the risk of repeating myself, don't follow your breath or abdominal movements in this type of mindfulness meditation.

Observe the movement of your feet whilst engaged in your walking meditation ... but don’t look at your feet. Feel each step mindfully as you lift each foot off the floor/ground. Feel the sensations in each foot, ankle, leg, knee, the hips, the back, the neck, the head, the face, etc.

Look at a place about 2 metres ahead. Don’t gaze about here and there.
Maintain good posture … straight back.

Hands by side, in pockets or clasped in front or at rear ... resting easily ... wherever they’re comfortable.

Breathe normally.  

If background thoughts, etc, arise ... simply keep focused on noting your steps.

Be aware of the movements with your mind as well as the sensations throughout your body.

If you become distracted, and focusing on noting your steps doesn’t help ... stand for a few moments, and watch your breath ... until the mind calms. Be fully mindful with an alert, relaxed attention to the present moment.
Continue to walk mindfully for 10 to 20 minutes ... or longer.
At end of walk, stand (“standing, standing”) for a short while, observing your posture and breathing … mindfully and attentively.
After standing mindfully for a few moments, gently return to your “daily life” ... and don't forget to reflect upon whatever insights you gained into yourself and others as a result of your walking meditation.




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