What Is Walking Meditation? (and How to Build This Mindfulness Habit)
We have all heard about the benefits of mindfulness, and how practicing this form of meditation has many health benefits. However, have you heard about the benefits of a habit called “walking meditation?”
Both walking and meditation are great for your health, but when they are put together, they offer benefits that are greater than either one individually.
Walking meditation is a great way to reduce stress and take the time to truly enjoy nature. It can help you focus, and bring you back to a sense of reality if you are going through a difficult time.
But you may be unsure what walking meditation is, and how to do it properly in order to gain all of the potential benefits.
In this article, I’ll define walking meditation, detail a few benefits of building this mindfulness habit, and show you get how to get started.
After reading this, you will have a solid understanding of walking meditation techniques, and how doing them can positively impact your life.
What Is Walking Meditation?
You are probably wondering what is walking meditation? The quick definition of walking meditation is that it is simply a form of meditation in action. It is taking meditation and adding movement to it.
But there are a lot more details involved that are important to grasp in order to practice walking meditation successfully.
Mindfulness meditation while walking can be planned and formal, or informal (meaning that you simply bring awareness to your walking whenever and wherever you are walking).
It can be easy to do this informally, because when your body is moving, it is easier to become aware of each movement and other sensations than when you are sedentary or just sitting at your office desk.
It is easier to stay on track with your mindfulness as you are making consistent movements than when you are doing sitting meditation, (when you can easily allow your mind to wander).
Walking meditation is best done outside in places where you will not be interrupted by traffic. There are a lot of types of walking meditations that you can do, but here, we will focus on mindfulness walking meditation.
Incorporating this practice into your life can benefit you without even having to do much more than you already do. You can just use the time that you are getting some exercise by walking, and incorporate this practice to get double the benefits.
Walking is a great way to add mindfulness into your routine. In your everyday life, walking is typically an established and habitual task that does not require much concentration.
Because of this, people often slip into a semi-conscious state while they are walking, where the legs are going forward but the mind is somewhere else entirely.
Whatever it is that distracts the mind is a movement away from the present experience of life. Sometimes you can get so wrapped up in planning and analyzing things that you forget to experience it. This practice will help bring you back to enjoying your life as it is.
What Is Mindful Walking Meditation?
Mindful walking meditation is a modern version of traditional Buddhist walking meditation. It incorporates mindfulness to make this practice more relevant to our current society's trends in meditation.
Mindfulness walking meditation requires you to use an open monitoring practice, meaning that your attention is not only on the sensations that you feel in your feet, but also on the various feelings throughout your body, and your interpretation of the current moment.
Benefits of Mindfulness Walking Meditation
Improves your ability to focus.
Whenever you practice mindfulness, you are creating new connections in your brain.
Mindfulness helps your brain grow new neural networks, and, by doing so, you are essentially rewiring your brain to more effectively handle tasks and deal with stress and emotions. This helps increase your focus.
Can be done alternatively with sitting meditation to prevent lethargy.
You may start to feel lethargic when you are practicing sitting meditation, but then again, you may also start to get tired from walking. When you alternate between the two practices, you can get in more meditation time without becoming tired.
You can do both types of meditation in sequence in one day, or you can alternate between the two practices on different days. The important thing is to find what is right for you and stick to it.
Combines your mindfulness practice and exercise.
You can kill two birds with one stone. You have to exercise in order to maintain optimal health, so while you are doing this, incorporate your meditation practice to save you some time.
In the hustle and bustle of busy schedules in our society, this is a great practice of self-care that can also allow you to have your free time outside of work.
Can boost your mood.
Walking can improve your mood by releasing endorphins in your brain, which are "feel good" hormones that can make you happy. Being out in nature can also boost your mood and make you feel more positive in general.
This practice will help center you, and get rid of any negative thoughts or feelings. It is very refreshing, so you when you are finished, you will feel great about yourself.
Can calm your mind.
Walking can help decrease your stress, and calm your mind. The neurons that are released while you walk can help dull feelings of anxiety, and relax your senses.
Meditation does this also, so when you put the two together, you are doubling your chances of calming yourself down. Getting fresh air is also a great way to calm your mind.
Seven Things to Consider for Walking Meditation
You will want to find somewhere that is peaceful and doesn't have many disturbances.
Look for a local lake that has a walking path around it, or a park or walking trail near your house.
Avoid busy streets or areas where there are a lot of people that you will need to dodge.
You will want to walk for at least 15 minutes in order to benefit from the practice. At a brisk pace, this is about one mile.
Of course, you can walk for longer, but try not to make it any shorter than that because it takes some time for your body to warm up and start reaping the benefits of walking.
While you are doing walking meditation, it is best to slow your pace so you can really concentrate on all of the sensations and feelings in your body, rather than just your speed. Go at a pace that is comfortable for you, without rushing it.
Don't look at your walk as being a chore. Remember your purpose, and that you are doing it to benefit your overall health and well-being.
This should be a time that you consider to be a break from your everyday life, so it should be relaxing.
You don't want to get caught in a rainstorm during your walk. Make sure to check the weather before you leave so you can be sure that the weather will be clear for a while.
It is easier to take layers off if you get hot than it is to deal with being too cold.
Make sure that you are dressed appropriately for the temperature, but also bring more layers than you think you might need if you have any worries about becoming too cold. You want to be able to focus on your walk, not how hot or cold you are.
The footwear you get should depend on where you want to do your walking meditation.
If you are going to be going up and down hills, or be in terrain that is uneven, make sure that you have shoes that will support your ankles enough so you don't fall.
How to Practice Walking Meditation
Before you start practicing, make sure you have read and understand all of the information above.
You want to be prepared when you begin your practice so you can get the most out of it.
1. Anchoring or standing still.
Start by simply standing in one place, bringing your focus to your weight moving through your feet and onto the ground.
Make a mental note of all of the subtle movements that happen throughout your body to help keep you balanced in that standing position.
Slowly shift your weight from one side to the other, going back and forth and noticing all of the small movements happening in your body.
2. Begin walking.
Notice how your weight moves as you take your first step. Walk as you normally would, but make sure that you are staying at a slow pace.
You want to make sure that you don't make any physical changes to how you typically walk, only mental changes.
3. Become aware of your body.
Take some time to focus on each part of your body as you walk. Pay attention to the feelings, from the bottoms of your feet all the way up through the top of your head.
If you notice any tension in your body, take some time to relax those muscles.
4. Be mindful of your breathing.
You don't want to hold your breath while you are walking. But you also don't want to be breathing too hard, because that may indicate that you are walking too quickly. Make sure to take deep breaths at a normal pace.
5. Become aware of the feelings you’re having.
Notice everything that is going on in your body, whether it is pleasant or not. Accept your feelings without judgment, and accept them for what they are. Take a mental note of everything that goes on throughout your body as you are walking.
If you notice things that are going on around you that are either pleasant or unpleasant, allow them to pass you by. Don't let them distract you or take you out of your zone.
6. Notice your thoughts and emotional states.
How are you feeling? Are you relaxed? Are you content? Are you anxious or irritated?
Maybe you are feeling happy and refreshed to be on your walk. Just recognize your emotions that come and go during your walk.
Also, pay attention to what your mind is doing. Is it active or clear? Is it running quickly or taking a rest? Are you thinking about irrelevant things that are taking away from your meditation practice, or are you able to remain focused?
Just notice what is going on mentally, without passing judgment.
If you are not quite sure where to focus your thoughts while you are practicing your walking meditation, check out this video for some initial guidance.
Walking meditation is a very effective tool when it comes to reducing your anxiety, while also getting some exercise in for the day and exploring nature.
If you want to start building this habit into your routine, I recommend starting with just 10 minutes each day.
Once you start noticing the benefits that you are getting from walking meditation, increase that time, and continue to build it up as you go.
Finally, if you want to learn about other effective meditation habits, check out this post that explores 71 mindfulness exercises.