As a distance runner, I love the hard work, sweat and repeated effort required to stay committed to training. Sometimes I have to dig into pain and sometimes I just don’t want to put on the shoes, but my mind and body greatly benefit from this practice. On the other end of the spectrum, I also cultivate the slower and gentler practice of simple walking meditation. The easy pace of strolling helps me embrace the present moment—I’m on and in my feet, among the backdrop of nature, and experiencing the freedom of movement with no particular outcome in mind. Like other meditative practices, there are many ways to participate in walking meditation and the benefits are similar.
Benefits of Meditation
All meditation, whether active or passive, is fundamentally about creating conscious and deliberate focus. Any mindfulness practice can be simply understand as focusing on one thing, on purpose, and in the present moment (Kabat-Zinn)
The cumulative and lasting benefits of any meditation include:
Increased clarity of mind
Increase ability to respond instead of react
General improvement of physical and mental health
Benefits of Walking Meditation
Walking and walking meditation offer several specific benefits.
Studies repeatedly indicate that walking can help release stress and increase energy. Regular movement can help increase endorphin production which enhances a sense of well being and improves concentration, memory, and overall brain function.
Walking also takes us outside of the environment where we may experience stress. Going for a walk interrupts the stimuli and can help the mind and heart relax and reset.
Walking alone and in the company of silence encourages increased freedom of thought and an opportunity to focus on the breath, a mantra, or prayers.
Ways to Use Walking for Meditation
When we bring present moment and nonjudgmental awareness to walking, we reap the benefits of movement while expanding the possibilities of what our mind can focus on. Below are some ideas to incorporate during walking meditation to deepen the experience of being in the present moment, on purpose and with non-judgment.
Notice the feel of each footstep
Place your hands and arms in different positions to slow down the body
Notice the shift in breath as you move through diverse terrain
Bring awareness to your senses (what do you see, hear, feel, smell?)
Allow a prayer or mantra to repeat with each footstep or series of steps to create the beat of your own drum
As you walk, contemplate a question or statement:
If I released fear then…
Wouldn’t it be great if…
If I had a magic wand then…
I am grateful because…
Walk with another in silence and experience being present to each other without the use of language
The changing season is a beautiful opportunity to let your body amble, your mind rest, and allow the present moment to support you toward healing, growing, and becoming.