Instructions and inspiration for the practice of mindful walking
Walking…we walk everyday, everywhere.
Well actually…it’s often more like rushing from place to place. And as we walk, our minds are always busy thinking/ planning/ worrying/ ruminating/ fantasizing/ judging/ storytelling … focusing on everything but the actual act of walking.
Walking…such a simple thing. And in this simple act of putting one foot in front of the other to propel yourself from place to place, there is a beautiful opportunity to practice mindfulness. A powerful opportunity to train your mind to focus on something neutral (in this case on the act of walking and all the sensations involved), to turn it away from the usual busyness, and to firmly establish yourself in the present moment. As Thich Nhat Hanh says in “How to Walk”:
“To be mindful is to be truly present with your body and your mind, to bring harmony to your intentions and actions, and to be in harmony with those around you. We don’t need to make a separate time for this outside of our daily activities. We can practice mindfulness in every moment of the day as we walk from one place to another. When we walk through a door, we know that we are going through a door. Our minds are with our actions.”
Walking meditation is a way to wake up to the little miracle that walking really is. It’s a little miracle to have the strength, balance and intelligence to move ourselves forward, upright on two feet. We are the only creatures on the planet capable of doing that.
Walking can be a way to connect with the beautiful planet we live on. To see and feel it. To appreciate it. To marvel. And to reconnect with our own true nature. Another little miracle of walking.
I’ve learned walking meditation while on retreat and as part of my meditation teacher training. It can be an alternative to seated meditation, or a practice in and of itself. Like all forms of meditation, walking meditation is a simple thing to do, yet not so simple. The mind continually wanders into the past and the future. I had trouble connecting with walking meditation, until I really leaned into it and found various ways to entice my mind to stay focused on the practice instead of getting lost in its usual wandering. Now I find it to be quite a soothing and calming form of mindfulness meditation.
And I find that it’s an excellent practice I can easily take with me out into the world. It’s kind of like an invisible mindfulness practice you can do every time you go somewhere.
HOW TO DO WALKING MEDITATION
TAKING MINDFUL WALKING OUT INTO THE WORLD
“It’s possible to enjoy every step we make, not only during walking meditation, but at any time, whenever you need to move from one place to another, no matter how short the distance is. If you’re waking five steps, then walk those five steps mindfully, feeling your stability with every step. When you climb the stairs, climb each step with joy. With each step, you can generate your best energy and transfer it out into the world.” Thich Nhat Hanh
You can practice mindful walking anywhere, once you understand and have practiced the principles. If you are on a street, in a park, in an airport, in any public place, walk slowly but not so slowly that you draw attention to yourself. Keep focusing your attention on the movements of the walking, on the sensations you experience, on the beauty that surrounds you. You may wish to stop from time to time, to connect with your breath, and notice. Nobody will know you are practicing mindful walking meditation.
A LITTLE BOOK FOR INSPIRATION
How to Walk, by Thich Nhat Hanh
As easy to read book that offers inspiration and little stories about the powerful impact of mindful walking as well as tips for your practice. This book is part of his series called Mindfulness Essentials. Thich Nhat Hanh was a Vietnamese Zen Buddhist monk, global spiritual leader, poet and peace activist who was very influential in introducing Buddhism and mindfulness to the West. He founded well-known Plum Village in France.
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