Walking meditation is a powerful mindfulness practice that can transform your daily walks into a source of deep relaxation and awareness.
If you are interested in learning more about one of the most ancient, and one of my most used practices, then this guide will take you through the ins and outs of this simple yet profound practice.
What is Walking Meditation?
Walking meditation, also known as kinhin in the Zen tradition, is a mindfulness practice that combines the act of walking with meditation.
It’s a simple yet powerful way to bring mindfulness into our daily lives, turning a mundane activity into an opportunity to develop concentration, awareness, and a deeper connection to our bodies and surroundings.
Walking meditation is an excellent option for those who find it challenging to sit still for extended periods, as well as for those who seek to bring mindfulness into more aspects of their lives.
It’s a practice that can be easily integrated into everyday life, allowing you to practice mindfulness while walking to work, running errands, or even enjoying an early morning walking meditation.
The key is to maintain a focus on your physical sensations, breath, and movement, bringing awareness to the present moment as you walk.
The Benefits of Walking Meditation
Just as with sitting meditation, walking meditation offers a wide range of benefits for our mental, emotional, and physical well-being. Some of these benefits include:
How to Practice Mindful Walking Meditation
Finding a suitable location
To begin, find a quiet and peaceful location for your walking meditation. You can practice indoors or outdoors, in a park, forest, or even in your own backyard. The key is to choose a place where you feel comfortable and undisturbed so you can remain in the present moment.
Preparing the body
Stand tall with your feet shoulder-width apart, allowing your arms to hang naturally by your sides. Take a few deep breaths, inhaling through your nose and exhaling through your mouth. This will help to relax your body and prepare you for your mindful walking practice.
Setting an intention
Before you start walking, take a moment to set an intention for your practice. This could be anything from cultivating mindfulness and presence to developing a deeper connection with your body. Remind yourself of this intention as you walk, allowing it to guide your practice.
Begin walking at a natural pace, paying close attention to the physical sensations in your body as you move. Notice the weight shifting from one foot to the other, the feeling of your feet touching the ground, and the rhythm of your breath.
You can choose to focus on one specific sensation or to be open to all the sensations that arise as you walk. The key is to maintain a gentle and non-judgmental awareness of your experience and the present moment.
Dealing with distractions
As with any meditation practice, during your mindful walking, you’ll likely encounter distractions in the form of thoughts, emotions, or external stimuli. When this happens, acknowledge the distraction, and then gently bring your focus back to your walking and the sensations in your body.
Walking Meditation Tips
Different Styles of Walking Meditation
There are several walking meditation techniques stemming from various traditions. Here are three popular styles you might want to explore:
- Zen Kinhin: In the Zen tradition, kinhin is practiced between periods of seated meditation (zazen). Practitioners walk slowly and mindfully, taking small steps and focusing on the sensations in their feet as they touch the ground. Hands are held in a specific position, with one hand making a fist and the other hand cupping it, held against the chest.
- Thich Nhat Hanh’s Walking Meditation: Thich Nhat Hanh, a renowned Vietnamese Zen Buddhist monk and peace activist, teaches a style of walking meditation that emphasizes connection with the Earth. With each step, practitioners are encouraged to feel gratitude and love for the Earth, silently repeating phrases like “I have arrived, I am home” or “Yes, yes, yes.”
- Vipassana Walking Meditation: In the Vipassana tradition, walking meditation is often practiced as a complement to seated meditation. The focus is on maintaining awareness of the entire body as it moves, noting the various sensations that arise with each step. This practice can be done at a slow, medium, or brisk pace, depending on the individual’s preference.
Integrating Walking Meditation into Daily Life
One of the great things about walking meditation is that it can easily be integrated into our daily lives. Here are a few ideas on how to make walking meditation a regular part of your routine:
Top Apps for Guided Walking Meditations
In our digital age, there are many resources available to help you with your walking meditation practice. Here are some of the top apps that offer guided walking meditations:
- Headspace: This app is one of the most highly-rated meditation apps in the app store. It offers several courses and single meditations on exercises in and appreciation of the outdoors, including a Loving Earth meditation.
- Insight Timer: With over 300,000 tracks, you’ll have plenty of content to explore with the Insight Timer. It includes a vast library of guided meditations, including walking meditations.
- Calm: This app offers guided and unguided meditations that focus on relaxing in general and keeping steady in tough times. It also includes walking meditations.
- Mindfulness Coach: This app, developed by the Department of Veterans Affairs, offers a range of mindfulness exercises and practices, including walking meditation.
These apps can be a great starting point for anyone looking to explore walking meditation. They offer a range of guided meditations and mindfulness exercises that can help you cultivate a deeper sense of presence and connection to your body and surroundings as you walk.
If you would like to try a walking meditation, you can try the ZenGuided walking meditation and let me know what you think in the comments.
Walking meditation is a powerful practice that offers numerous benefits for our mental, emotional, and physical well-being. By incorporating this simple yet profound mindfulness technique into your daily routine, you can transform ordinary walks into a journey of self-discovery, presence, and inner peace. There are many different types of meditation so it’s good to try and see which works best for you.
Remember, the key to a successful walking meditation practice is consistency and patience. Give yourself time to adjust to this new way of moving through the world, and you’ll soon find that the rewards are well worth the effort.
Disclaimer: The information provided in this article is intended for educational and informational purposes only. It should not be construed as professional advice, diagnosis, or treatment. If you are experiencing symptoms of any mental health condition, we strongly advise consulting with a qualified healthcare professional.