From Here to There – Suggestions for Walking Meditation

You probably know that I’m a big fan of walking meditation. Walking was the ‘gate’ that I had to pass through before I could manage to sit. I bought a CD of walking meditation instructions (“gently lift your left foot…”) and I practiced only silent walking for weeks.

I still practice walking meditation regularly. The steady movement, the changing visual background, the sounds of the outdoors (I practice on sidewalks and in parks), help me bring awareness to all facets of my life. So I was pretty excited today when Tricycle magazine sent me an article (“Walking: Meditation on the move“, Summer 1996) that gathers short instructions for walking meditation from several teachers, ranging from Thich Nhat Hanh to Henry David Thoreau.

Below is an excerpt of Jon Kabat-Zinn’s instructions taken from his book “Wherever You Go There You Are: Mindfulness Meditation in Everyday Life.”

 

In formal walking meditation, you attend to the walking itself. You can focus on the footfall … the whole body moving. You can couple an awareness of walking with an awareness of breathing.

In [formal] walking meditation, you are not walking to get anyplace. Usually it is just back and forth in a lane, or round and round in a loop. …

[Formal] walking meditation can be practiced at any pace, from ultra-slow to very brisk. How much … you can attend to will depend on the speed. … take each step as it comes … be fully present with it. This means feeling the very sensations of walking—in your feet, in your legs, in your carriage and gait, as always, moment by moment, and in this case, step by step as well. …

Just as in sitting meditation, things will come up which will pull your attention away from the bare experience of walking. We work with those perceptions, thoughts, feelings and impulses, memories and anticipations, that come up during the walking in the very same way that we do in sitting meditation. …

You can practice walking meditation informally anywhere. Informal walking meditation doesn’t involve pacing back and forth or going around a loop, but just walking normally. … along a sidewalk, down a corridor at work, going for a hike, walking your dog, walking with children. It involves recalling that you are here in your body. … slowing the pace can help take the edge off your rushing and remind you that you are here now, and that when you get there, you will be there. If you miss the here, you are likely also to miss the there. – Jon Kabat-Zinn, “Wherever You Go There You Are: Mindfulness Meditation in Everyday Life”

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