Walking Meditation Benefits

Theravada Walking Meditation

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 In the Theravada Buddhist tradition, walking meditation is an  essential part of their training and lifestyle. In Thailand monasteries,  many monks will walk for long hours as a way of developing  concentrations – sometimes as much as ten or fifteen hours a day!

Of all walking meditations that I found, this is the one with the most elaborate mental aspect of the training.

Zen Walking Meditation (Kinhin)

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In Japanese Zen, this is called kinhin. Practitioners  walk clockwise around a room, in a very specific posture. It is usually  done between sessions of seated meditation practice (zazen).

  • Stand up straight with your back upright but not stiff.
  • Feel your feet touching the ground and let your weight distribute evenly.
  • Curl the thumb of your left hand in and wrap your fingers around it.  Place it just above your belly button. Wrap your right hand around it,  resting your right thumb in the crevice formed between your left thumb  and index finger. This is called shashu (see image above).
  • Keep your eyes cast down about five or six feet in front, un-focused.
  • With each complete breath (exhalation and inhalation), take a small  step (the length of your foot), beginning with the right foot.
  • Keep the body and mind  walking and breathing in a well-balanced, concentrated way. Keep your  focus on your breathing and stepping.

This is the walking meditation with the slowest pace. I once did one hour of kinhin practice (during a night long meditation) and covered only about 150 meters! 

Thich Nhat Hanh Walking Meditation

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 The Vietnamese monk Thich Nhat Hanh, which is a notable influence in  the modern mindfulness movement and in modern Buddhism, has a simplified  approach to walking meditation. Different from other techniques, this  one makes use of affirmations in order to produce positive mental  states.

  • Walk slowly, with calmness and comfort
  • Be aware of each move, of each step. Keep bringing your attention to the present moment.
  • Mentally repeat one of these verses, as you walk 
    • Breathing in “I have arrived”; Breathing out “I am home”
    • Breathing in “In the here”; Breathing out “In the now”
    • Breathing in “I am solid”; Breathing out “I am free”
    • Breathing in “In the ultimate”; Breathing out “I dwell”
  • Enjoy every step you take. Kiss the earth with your feet, imprinting gratitude and love as you walk.

You can learn more about his approach and philosophy through a book he co-authored.Are your customers raving about you on social media? Share their great stories to help turn potential customers into loyal ones.

Mindfulness Walking Meditatio

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 This is an adaptation of traditional Buddhist walking meditation by  the modern mindfulness movement. Instead of being a practice of  concentration (focused attention) – as it is in the Theravada tradition –  it is more of an open monitoring practice. In other words, the attention is not laser focused on the  soles of the feet; instead, it is present to the variety of sensations  and perceptions of the present moment.

Here are some pointers:

  • Pay attention to the experience of walking, and keep your awareness engaged in this experience.
  • Feel your feet touching the ground. The movement of your muscles.  The constant balancing and rebalancing of the body. Pay attention to any  areas of stiffness or pain in the body, and consciously relax them.
  • Be also aware of your location in space. The sounds around you. The air temperature.
  • Be aware of the beginning, the middle, and the end of your stepping.
  • Allow your awareness to move up through every part of the body,  noticing the sensations as you walk. Gradually scan all parts of your  body as you bring your attention to the ankles, skins, calves, knees,  thighs, hips, pelvis, back, chest, shoulders, arms, neck, and head.
  • Become aware of your present mental and emotional states. Notice  your state of mind. Is it calm or busy, cloudy or focused? Where is your  mind?

Yoga Walking Meditation

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 In the Yoga tradition, walking meditation is not as popular as in the  Buddhist tradition, where this type of meditation is more emphasized.  In traditional Yoga, meditation seems to be always seated.

The only practices I found were a couple by Swami Sivananda (in his old-school book The Science of Pranayama), and one by Swami Satyananda (in his book Sure Ways to Self-Realization)  – of which I present adaptations here. If you know of other Yoga-based  walking meditation, let me know and I’ll update this section.

The idea of this exercise is to coordinate different types of pranayama (breathing regulation) with the stepping. This is often more  challenging, from a breathing point of view, than other types of walking  meditation. Unlike other practices, in which we simply observe the  breath, in pranayama we actively guide the breath. It may  require some previous training in these breathing exercises in seated  position for you to be able to do it comfortably.

Pranayama is a huge topic and there are many powerful practices. A more detailed exploration may be the subject of a future post.

Before starting any of the following exercises, take some time to  really calm the breathing. Breathe with the suggested pattern for a few  times, just standing, before you start with the steps.

In both cases, every step is one second.

Exercise 1 (Breathing 4-4-4-4)

In this exercise there is inhalation, retention and exhalation, all the same length.

  • Inhale for 4 steps
  • Retain the breath for 4 steps
  • Exhale slowly for 4 steps
  • Retain empty for 4 steps

You may increase or decrease the number of steps for each phase,  according to your capacity. For instance, it could be 3-3-3-3 or  6-6-6-6.

Exercise 2 (Breathing 1:4:2)

Here, the rhythm for inhalation-retention-exhalation is 1:4:2, which  is more challenging. You can start with 2-8-4 or 3-12-6, and increase by  time.

  • Inhale for 3 steps
  • Retain the breath for 12 steps
  • Exhale slowly for 6 steps

Exercise 3 (Mantra)

This practice is traditionally called Chankramanam. Here you synchronize the mental repetition of a mantra with your steps.

Keep your pace and your breathing steady, and repeate your mantra  with each step (if it’s a short one); or break it into a few steps (for  longer mantras).



Daoist Walking Meditation

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https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6eXyTL8-2_A In the Chinese tradition we find some walking meditations that are  more focused on physical health; others use visualization to harmonize  body and mind; and yet others are more “freeform”. Let’s discuss a few  of these exercises here. They are presented in no particular order, and  are not requisites for one another.

Exercise 1 (Ball Of Energy)

This is a technique taught in the lineage of Wang Liping.

  • Walk normally, but in a slow pace.
  • Breath in for 3, 6 or 12 steps. Breath out for the same number of  steps. Do this a few times just standing, until you get used to the  rhythm.
  • Now start walking. Bringing visualisation of energy (qi) 
    • While breathing in, visualize/feel the field of energy (qi) surrounding you being pulled into your lower dantien (the center two inches below the navel).
    • While breathing out, visualize/feel the field of energy (qi) in your dantien expanding to a ball around you.

A variation of this method is to hold your breath for the same number of steps, right after inhalation.

Exercise 2 (Pulled By The Dantien)

Walk normally, but focus your attention on the dantien. Feel  that your body is being pulled forward from this center, effortlessly.  If you habitually lead with the head, chest, or pelvis, you may find  this exercise grounding and energizing.

Exercise 3 (Martial Walking)

The Daoist martial arts (like Taiji, Bagua, Xingyi) have very  specific ways of walking. Although these do include some mental training  as well, the emphasis is more on the physical health aspect, or on  martial development. So I will not explore them in this post.

For those interested, see this and this to have a taste for it.

Exercise 4 (Aimless Walking)

This employs the principle of non-doing (wu wei) to move without  conscious mental effort, without destination or purpose, aimlessly.

  • Find a flat terrain path outdoors where it’s not important to pay  attention to the surroundings. It should be safe, secluded, quiet,  still, and as empty as possible – so there is little distraction. An  indoor walking path will also work.
  • Find a circular or very long straight path to minimize the need to consciously change direction.
  • The first few times around the path, look at everything to acclimate to the surroundings; then ignore everything.
  • Wear comfortable shoes and clothing; carry whatever is needed to minimize self-consciousness, as long as it is lightweight.
  • Walk at a leisurely pace, ignoring the surroundings as much as  possible. Moderate the pace of the walk, so that the walking can be  forgotten. Flash attention in and out of the meditative state to make  any course adjustments on the walk, as needed.

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What is meditation?

Meditation  isn’t about becoming a different person, a new person, or even a better  person. It’s about training in awareness and getting a healthy sense of  perspective. You’re not trying to turn off your thoughts or feelings.  You’re learning to observe them without judgment. And eventually, you  may start to better understand them as well. 

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Additional Information

 Ayahuasca compound changes brainwaves to vivid ‘waking-dream’ state

by Ryan O'Hare19 November 2019

Brain activity rendered as a series of peaks and troughs

Potent psychedelic DMT
radically alters brain
activity

Scientists have peered inside the brain to show how taking DMT affects human consciousness by significantly altering the brain’s electrical activity.

DMT (or dimethyltryptamine) is one of the main psychoactive constituents in ayahuasca, the psychedelic brew traditionally made from vines and leaves of the Amazon rainforest. The drink is typically prepared as part of a shamanic ceremony and associated with unusual and vivid visions or hallucinations.

The latest study is the first to show how the potent psychedelic changes our waking brain waves – with researchers comparing its powerful effects to ‘dreaming while awake’.

The work, led by researchers from the Centre for Psychedelic Research at Imperial College London and published today in the journal Scientific Reports, may help to explain why people taking DMT and ayahuasca experience intense visual imagery and immersive ‘waking-dream’ like experiences.

Video placeholder image

An illustration from one of study participants showing four kneeling shadows on a mound of earth waving their arms against a colourful background.

DMT is a naturally occurring chemical found in miniscule amounts in the human brain but also in larger amounts in a number of plant species around the world.

Accounts from people who have taken DMT report intense visual hallucinations often accompanied by strong emotional experiences and even ‘breakthroughs’ into what users describe as an alternate reality or dimension.

It’s clear these people are completely immersed in their experience – it’s like daydreaming only far more vivid and immersive, it’s like dreaming but with your eyes openChristopher TImmermannCentre for Psychedelic Research

But scientists are interested in using the powerful psychoactive compound for research as it produces relatively short but intense psychedelic experiences, providing a window for collecting data on brain activity when consciousness is profoundly altered.

In the latest study, the Imperial team captured EEG measures from healthy participants in a clinical setting, in a placebo-controlled design.

A total of 13 participants were given an intravenous infusion of DMT at the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Imperial Clinical Research Facility. Volunteers were fitted with caps with electrodes to measure the brain’s electrical activity, before, during and after their infusion, with the peak of the psychedelic experience lasting around 10 minutes.

Analysis revealed that DMT significantly altered electrical activity in the brain, characterised by a marked drop off in alpha waves – the human brain’s dominant electrical rhythm when we are awake. They also found a short-lived increase in brainwaves typically associated with dreaming, namely, theta waves.

'Chaotic' brain activity

In addition to changes in the types of brainwaves, they also found that, overall, brain activity became more chaotic and less predictable – the opposite to what is seen in states of reduced consciousness, such as in deep sleep or under general anaesthesia.

“The changes in brain activity that accompany DMT are slightly different from what we see with other psychedelics, such as psilocybin or LSD, where we see mainly only reductions in brainwaves,” said lead author Christopher Timmermann, from the Centre for Psychedelic Research.  

A graph showing the change in brain activity

“Here we saw an emergent rhythm that was present during the most intense part of the experience, suggesting an emerging order amidst the otherwise chaotic patterns of brain activity.

"From the altered brainwaves and participants’ reports, it’s clear these people are completely immersed in their experience – it’s like daydreaming only far more vivid and immersive, it’s like dreaming but with your eyes open.”

Research with DMT may yield important insights into the relationship between brain activity and consciousness, and this small study is a first step along that roadDr Robin Carhart-HarrisCentre for Psychedelic Research

Mr Timmermann explains that while it’s unclear as to whether DMT may have any clinical potential at this stage, the group hopes to take the work further by delivering a continuous infusion of DMT to extend the window of the psychedelic experience and collect more data.

The team says future studies could include more sophisticated measurements of brain activity, such as fMRI, to show which regions and networks of the brain are affected by DMT. They believe the visual cortex, the large area towards the back of the brain, is likely to be involved.

Dr Robin Carhart-Harris, head of Centre for Psychedelic Research, said: “DMT is a particularly intriguing psychedelic. The visual vividness and depth of immersion produced by high-doses of the substance seems to be on a scale above what is reported with more widely studied psychedelics such as psilocybin or ‘magic mushrooms’.

“It’s hard to capture and communicate what it is like for people experiencing DMT but likening it to dreaming while awake or a near-death experience is useful.

“Our sense it that research with DMT may yield important insights into the relationship between brain activity and consciousness, and this small study is a first step along that road.”

  • Brain activity measured during DMT experience shows a visible difference in electrical activity readout compared to placeboBrain activity measured during DMT experience shows a visible difference in electrical activity readout compared to placebo. The red line shows the volunteer's subjective rating of the intensity of experience (Credit: Chris Timmermann)
  • Chris Timmermann from the Centre for Psychedelic ResearchChris Timmermann from the Centre for Psychedelic Research (Credit: Imperial College London / Thomas Angus)
  • Lead researcher Chris Timmermann talks to a volunteer wearing an EEG cap to measure their brain activityIn a small study, researchers collected data on brain activity during DMT experiences. Pictured is Chris Timmermann from the Centre for Psychedelic Research (Credit: Imperial College London / Thomas Angus)
  • A shot of the treatment room used during the small studyThe treatment room used during the small study, where healthy volunteers were administered DMT and changes to brain activity recorded (Credit: Imperial College London / Thomas Angus)
  • Brain activity measured under placebo conditions shows consistent peaks and troughs of electrical activityBrain activity measured under placebo conditions shows consistent peaks and troughs of electrical activity (Credit: Chris Timmermann)
  • Brain activity measured during DMT experience shows a visible difference in electrical activity readout compared to placeboBrain activity measured during DMT experience shows a visible difference in electrical activity readout compared to placebo. The red line shows the volunteer's subjective rating of the intensity of experience (Credit: Chris Timmermann)
  • Chris Timmermann from the Centre for Psychedelic ResearchChris Timmermann from the Centre for Psychedelic Research (Credit: Imperial College London / Thomas Angus)

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