By Rohi Shetty
“Every path, every street in the world is your walking meditation path.”
~Thich Nhat Hanh
In my last article, The Surprising Problem With Meditation, I explained why it’s crucial to complement sitting meditation with walking meditation.
Though, it is relatively unknown, walking meditation is practiced worldwide. In Thailand, meditators sit and walk alternately during meditation retreats. In fact, many Thai monks use mindful walking as their main meditation practice. An elderly Thai monk was so fond of walking meditation, that when he was no longer able to walk, he instructed his attendant to wheel his chair around his walking path!
If you have limited time, walking meditation is a great way to combine mindfulness with exercise.
Three benefits of walking meditation
- Banish drowsiness
If you feel drowsy or lethargic, you will benefit by switching to walking meditation instead of sitting with your eyes closed. Drowsiness during meditation is natural. Often we see not just students but even meditation teachers dozing off on their cushions.
- Battle agitation
Similarly, if you are very distracted or restless, walking meditation may suit you better than sitting. Walking mindfully helps to calm you to dissipate some of the excess emotional energy. People with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) usually find it easier to practice walking meditation.
- Neutralize a sedentary lifestyle
Reflect on this: we sit all day—during meals, our daily commute, in the office and then at home watching TV or on Facebook. At the most, we may go to the gym for an hour or for a stroll. So if you have limited time for exercise and meditation, choose mindful walking instead of sitting meditation.
Four ways to practice walking meditation
Walking meditation is wonderfully versatile. You can develop mindfulness with walking meditation in four different ways:
- Movement of legs and feet
This is the easiest way to meditate during walking. Note the movement of the feet and legs during walking and the four components of walking:
- lifting of the left foot,
- the forward movement of the left foot,
- the placing of the left heel on the ground, and
- finally, the placing of the rest of the left foot on the ground.
This is followed by awareness of similar movements of the right foot and so on.
- Incoming and outgoing breath
Being aware of the natural incoming and outgoing breath is one of the most common and effective ways to develop mindfulness.
- When the breath is coming in, be aware: “Now the breath is coming in.”
- When the breath is going out, be aware, “Now the breath is going out.”
- If it’s not clear whether the breath is coming in or going out, breathe a little deeper so that the awareness of incoming and outgoing breath is absolutely clear.
- Often the mind may wander and we may lose awareness of the breath. As soon as you realize this, smile and understand, “My mind has wandered,” and bring your attention back to the breath.
The mind is bound to wander again and again. Our job is to bring it back to respiration as soon as we realize that the mind has wandered without feeling any discouragement or sense of defeat.
- Body sensations
You can choose to be aware of whatever sensations you can feel on different parts of your body such as warmth, cold, itching, pain, tingling, etc. Alternatively, you may feel the touch of your clothes or touch of the air, anywhere on the body.
During mindful listening, the focus of meditation is at the “sense doors” of our ears. We pay heed to whatever sounds we hear and are aware of them without judgment or reaction.
Walking Meditation Practice
Set a timer for ten minutes and try mindful walking.
You can choose to be aware of:
- the movements of your legs and feet,
- your incoming and outgoing breath,
- body sensations or
Join the conversation
Have you practiced walking meditation?
Share your experiences in the comments below.
(12 October 2016)
Rohi Shetty has published nine Kindle books on Amazon. If you want a free review copy of his next book, The Ultimate Guide to Walking Meditation as well as admission to the companion course, send him an email at with “Walking meditation” in the subject.
Bonus points if you send one or more questions about walking meditation.