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We’re all aware of the benefits of reaching our daily 10,000 steps, and a walking meditation helps combine gentle exercise with a peaceful mindfulness practice.
Those who work behind a desk may find a walking meditation the perfect antidote to a long day, while others can simply find sitting down to meditate uncomfortable, preferring to be on the move.
There’s a number of reasons why someone may choose to practice a walking meditation, and it is accessible to almost anyone.
What is a Walking Meditation?
A walking meditation is meditating while walking. It can be as structured or as relaxed as you like, and can help to break up long periods of time spent sitting down.
While many of us understand the benefits of a good walk in nature, all too often we look for ways to pass the time. We might listen to a podcast, phone a friend or listen to music.
It’s rare that our attention is fully focused on our physical body and its sensations, or even the environment we are walking in! We often walk in auto-pilot, doing just enough to get from A to B.
In monasteries, a walking meditation is practiced at a set time every day for a given period of time. It can help to ease the tension that builds from long periods of time spent sitting.
We can learn something from this in Western society, as many of us spend hours sitting behind a desk or working on the sofa. Walking meditations can ease aches and pains while boosting energy and alertness.
The reason why a walking meditation is so powerful is because it connects the mind and body. It allows us to be mindful and fully present when we move, which can reduce anxiety, boost relaxation and allow us to calmly tackle the challenges that come our way.
When to Practice Walking Meditation?
While Buddhist monks traditionally practice by walking backwards and forwards a set number of steps, you may choose to meditate on the move, perhaps walking to the bus stop or home from a long day.
Walking meditation is easy to integrate into your daily life and will heighten your awareness at a time you’d otherwise be on auto-pilot!
One of the most popular times to practice a walking meditation is the middle of the day, especially for those who work behind a desk.
However, it’s also extremely beneficial to get out first thing in the morning or even after work.
It’s not generally recommended to practice a walking meditation too close to bedtime, as you may find you struggle to switch off and go to sleep.
If you’d like to meditate close to bedtime, a relaxing sleep meditation is a better option.
How to Practice Walking Meditation
A walking meditation can be practiced as you move from A to B, or with more structure in a quiet area either inside or out. While walking, notice your body, your environment and the sensations you feel.
It can help to work through these one by one, first noticing the sensation of your feet hitting the floor.
While many people choose a specific location for their walking meditation, opting to walk forwards and backwards, this isn’t wholly necessary. If you plan on walking backwards and forwards, choose a peaceful and quiet spot where you won’t be disturbed.
While the goal isn’t to reach a specific destination while practicing a walking meditation, it often makes it easier to integrate this style of meditation into your day if you are heading somewhere you need to be.
As you walk, begin to think about the movement you are making. Try to be fully present and deliberate in your actions – you may find you start to walk a little differently when you first become aware of your body!
Notice your body, trying to pay attention to the feeling of your feet hitting the ground. Take a few minutes to notice the sensation as your foot lifts from the floor, moves forward and is placed back down on the floor.
Observe the sensations and, if your mind wanders, simply bring it back to the present moment.
Whether you are walking down a busy high street or a peaceful country lane, turn your attention to your surroundings. Notice the passing cars, people, colours, and anything else in your line of vision. Even the dullest of environments can contain life and vibrancy, we generally just fail to notice it!
Turn your attention to your senses. Notice the sounds, smells and anything else, whether that’s the wind on your face or the odd drop of rain. Try to be fully aware of all the sensations and movements going on. Bring yourself back to the present if your mind wanders.
Benefits of Walking Meditations
While walking meditation offers the same mental benefits of a sitting meditation, combining movement with meditation only adds to the power of regular practice. Practicing a walking meditation regularly should lead to better digestion, blood flow and improved physical fitness.
A surprising benefit of a walking meditation is improved self esteem. Often, we walk from place to place without noticing what’s going on in our body. Walking mindfully can build a mind-body connection, encouraging us to notice and appreciate what our body does for us.
You may also find you connect on a deeper level with nature and the environment. You may feel a newfound sense of love for your home, or find yourself noticing things about your community that you have never picked up on before.
Finally, a walking meditation is a great way to bring mindfulness into everyday life. Very often, mindfulness is thought of as something we can only practice while sitting in the lotus position!
This is not the case, and practicing mindfulness throughout the day is immensely powerful.
Walking is an activity that almost all of us partake in on a daily basis, so it offers a great opportunity to become more aware and mindful.
- Walking meditations can be practiced by virtually anyone, and offer a great way to bring mindfulness into your day.
- Combining physical exercise with a mindfulness meditation offers a huge range of mental and physical health benefits.
- There’s a range of ways to practice a walking meditation, and you may need to find what works for you.
- Unique benefits of a walking meditation may include a deeper connection to both nature and your physical body.