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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