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One step at a time: A short guide to walking meditation

Walking meditation is much more than a simple walk because there are elements and benefits in it that are not present in the regular stroll. For example, it is done more slowly and is usually coordinated with breathing and concentration. It is similar to meditation except that the eyes are kept open and the body moves. Sometimes, one can also interact with the surroundings. Some people use walking meditation to complement their sitting practice; others start with walking meditation before diving into a seated meditation.

The small movements

It is best to spend a moment in the standing position, breathing deeply and focusing one’s attention on the body. Ground yourself by standing with your feet about a hip’s width apart and balancing your weight equally on both feet. Take deep breaths and close your eyes before doing a scan of the body, starting with the feet. Be aware of every sensation, feeling, and thought. Do not rush this process and notice how the body feels standing on the ground.

With walking meditation, every step is taken deliberately. Many practitioners even go as far as breaking down each step into the following micro-movements: lifting the foot, moving it forward, placing the foot heel first on the ground, shifting the weight of the body onto the leg in front as the back heel is lifted, and so on. The hand may be clasped behind the back or in front. They can also hang freely at the sides if that is more comfortable and natural for the practitioner. The eyes are kept soft, looking ahead. One does not have to observe the feet.

Place and pace

You can do walking meditation in your own backyard or in a public place as long as it is safe and there is minimal distraction. It is important for the mind to focus or concentrate so a road with plenty of cars or lots of people would not be ideal. This is why some practitioners choose to stay in a small private space or a short lane and walk a few steps forward, pause, breathe, walk back, then repeat the process over and over. It is also possible to do this indoors.

Walking slowly is always better, especially if the mind is muddled or anxious. This helps one to stay in the moment and assists in being more in touch with sensations, the breath, and the walking experience itself. Keep a steady and even pace, while taking small steps. Make sure that movements are natural. One can do the whole exercise for about 15 minutes, or even longer if desired.

It is natural for the mind to wander, especially if there are elements in our surroundings that might grab our attention. One has to simply bring the attention back to walking and breathing.

Long-time practitioners of walking meditation are able to integrate it into their daily lives, meaning, they are able to bring mindfulness to their regular walking activities—and to any daily activity, for that matter!

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