If like me you struggle to cultivate a daily meditation practise but still want to try, why not give walking meditation a go on your next lunch break. It allows and encourages you to remain active throughout the day, you can practise anywhere you like and it can be done easily with no equipment. If you prefer to meditate with a guide you can download an app in the iPhone app store called Walking Meditations (A$0.99). The app has three 16-18 minute guided walking meditation tracks that help to develop mindfulness while you walk. For those who haven’t considered walking meditation before here’s a few tips and a brief rundown of the practise before you start.
How Long – 15 to 20 minutes is a good starting point however walking meditation can be done for as long or a little as you like
How to Start – Any walking meditation practise should begin by standing still for a few moments and drawing your attention inwards to your body. Take a few deep breaths feeling your belly rise and fall with each inhale and exhale. Paying close attention to the sensations of breathing allow the breath to return to normal. Bring your awareness to your body and become aware of the sensations throughout the body. Begin to walk.
How Fast – Walking Meditation should be done at a comfortable pace, not slow and not brisk. Let your legs fall one after the other at a pace that feels right to you at the time. You may find that fast walking will bring you some relief and benefit when agitated or sleepy. However when the mind is centred a slower pace may be more comfortable.
Where To – Walking meditation is preferably done outdoors, however if this is not possible indoors is just fine. If you can, it is good to do a traditional more formal practise for which it is suggested to walk back and forth across the same 40 metres or so. This is to allow the body to become mindful and not distracted by your changing environment or the need to negotiate a path. However you can still practise by following any pathway you feel suits you on the day. While Walking Meditation done in a big city is great for improving your concentration and focus, ensure that you remain aware enough of your surroundings to walk safely and respond accordingly to any obstacles or dangers.
What to Focus On – Seated meditation practise instructs us to focus on the rhythm and sensation of the breath. During walking meditation you are instead instructed to pay close attention to the rhythm of walking and the sensations in the body. Start by feeling the sensations in your feet and the contact of your feet on the ground. Feel the entire foot, be aware of its placement and the feeling of the ground beneath it. Feel your arms swinging by your side. Scan your entire body and notice if you are holding any tension or pain, allow the tension to release. Feel the sensations over your skin, your clothing’s texture or weight, perhaps the sun on your shoulders or a breeze on your arm. When you feel yourself begin to lose focus gently bring your attention back to the rhythm of your steps and the sensations in the body. As a note here, there is certainly a lot more to pay attention to during a walking meditation. For beginners I strongly suggest trying a guided version first to develop your practise.
The Benefits – Walking Meditation holds all of the benefits of a traditional seated meditation practise plus a few added bonuses. As in traditional mediation, walking meditation has been shown to lower stress levels, improve emotional balance and cognitive function. Given that there are a lot more distractions during walking meditation than during a seated practise walking mediation challenges you to concentrate and remained focused on your meditation practise while allowing the disturbances around you to pass by. Walking meditation encourages us to remain active throughout the day and can re-invigorate the body when it is feeling sluggish or tired from sitting for long periods. Further to this, studies show that when done shortly after a meal the act of walking for around 20 minutes aids in lowering blood sugar levels and speeding up the digestion process.
Walking mediation would be best built into your lifestyle as a support of an already existing daily seated meditation practise. However, in saying this, I do believe that any form of meditation is better than none at all, so if you can incorporate this meditation only or any other form into your daily life you will certainly receive the benefits.