What is walking meditation
A walking meditation practice is generally designed to engage in physical, emotional and mental exercise together for the purpose of reaching a heightened level of spiritual awareness. Walking meditation is the practice of conscious movement and the alignment of the physical, psychological, emotional and spiritual parts of ourselves. This is what the nature of yoga is. It is the wonderful union of all sides of ourselves. It is how we bring the complexity of the self together. We are after all multidimensional beings comprised of aspects that no other creatures seem to have. We seem to be spiritual beings having a human experience rather than human beings having a spiritual experience and walking meditations really bring this out into the light. The power of moving into trans states for healing, calm and life transformation are incredible.
For us walking meditations are like meditations in 3D, you get to have it all, experience it all and connect to it all. Walking meditations are like mini adventures. Much like something one would experience at the cinema. When you’re contemplatively aware, you get to see and really notice all the characters performing their parts in the play of life.
Above all, do not lose your desire to walk: Every day I walk myself into a state of well- being and walk away from every illness; I have walked myself into my best thoughts, and I know of no thought so burdensome that one cannot walk away from it.”— Søren Kierkegaard
Walking meditation is essentially the practice of movement and contemplative, centring thought together that brings deep emotions to the surface that change our state of being for the better. It is all done in union and that is the core power of walking meditation.
The power of walking meditation is that it brings body, heart and mind in sync in a profound way and the secret appears to be in the doing and not-doing aspects of it that happen in sync. Walking meditation is an experience that takes you to the depths of your authentic self, beyond the masks of your personality. You get to remove the masks and the stories that we use to define ourselves and conform to societal norms. Many people either can’t or don’t like to sit and meditate and this is a great alternative that provides many benefits of meditation and contemplation and also trains the mind in awareness practice. So it is a win, win situation all round.
Walking meditation, is also known in the East as kinhin, which is a practice in some forms of Buddhism that involves movement and periods of walking between long periods of sitting meditation. The Camino de Santiago is a great example of a Christian version of a walking meditation for many people, and may be one of the longest walks there is. It is not just one path that people take to do the walk. It comes in all shapes and sizes, some starting in France, others in Spain, Portugal or even Switzerland. Their final destination is the holy city of Santiago de Compostela, which for followers of Christianity such as myself, is believed to be the shrine of Saint James, an apostle of Jesus. This is why the Camino de Santiago is also known as the Way of St. James. Walking the labyrinth is another ancient walking meditation technique that shows the power of walking meditation and its influence around the world.
In modern times, hundreds of thousands complete the Camino de Santiago walk every year, seeking solace, silence or serenity. Few seek the snow, however, which is what you can get in winter months if you want to walk the whole thing. Whether it’s a calling or just about the hiking, here are some of our best tips on when to go camino. Others come to our Center for Healing and Life Transformation in South Africa for several weeks to heal and grow spiritually. They also come for the healing walking meditations that are being talked about more and more in healing circles. We use beaches, forests, mountains and all aspects of nature to do 1-3 hour walking meditations which actually end up change lives – they don’t simply relax people. They heal a myriad of dis-eases and radically open people up in short spaces of time. The changes people experience are so profound that it is hard to even explain. Nevertheless the changes are happening and we’re as amazed as anyone. When coupled with therapy and the right tools it’s potency is epic!
Then you have Labyrinths around the world that have been used as a spiritual tool for thousands of years. Perhaps one of the first origins of walking meditation. The one at the Marble Collegiate Church is based on one at the Chartres Cathedral in France that dates back to the 13th century.
The power of walking meditation as an ancient form of mindfulness meditation that seems to have re-emerged once again today is practiced all over the world. At its core, walking meditation is simply bringing your attention to your feet, legs, arm movements, the body and the ground below you whilst focusing your mind on what it feels like to walk. Best of all it is easy, and doesn’t necessarily require special equipment and can be worked into your everyday life. Of course we tech savvy folks use headphones and powerful audio CQ meditations to enhance the experience, but walking quietly with intent is enough. Just be warned, once you actually do a powerful walking meditation and get to experience the raw emotion of it all, even nirvana at times, you’re likely to be hooked. Yes, it’s that good!
Walking meditation is about far more than just wandering about without purpose. It is also about way more than just exercise. It is even about more than meditation itself. Here with this practice we go all in, no holds barred. We show up emotionally. Deeply so. The energy of emotions is not only mind-boggling when focused and directed, it heals, soothes and even transforms people too. When we go beyond the personality everything becomes possible we change our perspective and how we see reality. Walking meditation practices like these, at this level, are created to drastically enhance healing by increasing body, heart and brain coherence. Alignment, focus and precision are key.
Mediation itself assumes the body’s capacity to heal itself and the power of meditation is used to tap into the body’s natural healing processes. In other words they are already within you longing to be accessed. We don’t add anything – we just access what is already there as action potential.
Walk as if you’re the happiest person in the world, and if you do that you have succeed at mastering walking meditationThich Nhat Hanh
Can you meditate and walk
Yes of course you can. Sadhguru says that “to become meditative means a little space arises between you and these two accumulations of body and mind.” Meditation is a practice that involves focusing or clearing your mind using a combination of mental and physical techniques. That is exactly what we practice with the walking meditations that we do with clients.
Meditation is the art of being serene and alert in the present moment, instead of constantly struggling to change or to become. Meditation is a contemplative practice that gets us engaged in different spiritual traditions from Christianity to Islam as a means of quieting, focussing and then transforming, or going above the mind so to speak. Meditation seriously and rapidly creates energy that flows towards generating new self-awareness, and provides the optimum conditions for practicing the skill of mindfulness. When we are mindful miracles happen. We are able to transcend our problems, limitations and thinking fallacies. You see, the mind has boundaries – we do not and the sky is and always has been the limit.
Meditating while walking is a good way to get the mind to walk with us and to bring a relaxed focus to this everyday pursuit. It’s amazing how different we feel when paying attention to what’s going on around us rather than what’s swirling in our heads in terms of streams of automatic thoughts. Examples of walking meditations include kinhin, insight meditation, contemplative walking, theravada and vipassana and Contemplative Intelligence (CQ) meditation practice.
Taking walking meditation step by step
Though it is called a walking meditation, that doesn’t mean we’re walking around in a trans from A to B. Instead, we are mindfully walking using a powerful meditative technique, with eyes wide open, moving at a pace that suits us, and our objectives. Sometimes we want to generate new energy and sometimes we want to shift it or change its vibration. All these things become possible when doing walking meditations starts to click in and to confirm it is all the new scientific data is released almost weekly today with new findings about the power of walking meditations.
People have healed body conditions, eye conditions and even heart conditions. People have reported every kind of unusual benefit from getting out of wheel chairs to walk, to gaining better vision, to healing their arthritis and even healing from a stroke much faster. Most meditation practices involve focusing on a particular object — your breath, a mantra, a visualization, a physical object, even physical sensations within your body — and returning to that object whenever you get distracted or notice your mind starting to wander. Walking meditations like ours get you to do all of these things at once. That’s why we say they are meditations in three dimensional reality.
It is common for people to first do a sitting meditation in a private space and then go for a walk immediately afterward — with the dog, a partner, or alone — to take that meditative state with them, which is a great way to integrate mindfulness into any walk. What we rather suggest is that you plan the time, the medium you will use and then go for it. Use the time well and if it is healing or just relaxation you’re after go after that specifically, says Mark L Lockwood, founder of the CQ walking meditation technique. Thich Nhat Hanh also said that when your foot hits the ground imagine its imprint on the ground. These ‘happy and peaceful steps’ as he said allow us to connect to others and the world. Be specific about what you want to achieve. We don’t just meditate with these kinds of meditations we go after. a very specific goal – healing, freedom from fear or whatever it may be.
Essentially, walking becomes a tool to familiarize ourselves with the present moment, and we do this by redirecting the mind. Instead of our object of focus being the breath, as we do with a sitting meditation, our focus becomes the rhythm of our gait. It becomes what we see, hear and feel. All of this in turn becomes us. In this way we actually cause effect. We are changed in the moment and it is magical.
Instruction on how you do a meditative walk
Remember that for a walking mediation you can do it anywhere in a number of different ways.
Some practitioners typically walk clockwise around a room while holding their hands in a gesture with one hand closed in a fist. This is common in the East. During a traditional walking meditation like this each step is taken after each full breath. The pace of walking meditation can be either slow or fast paced. It depends on the intention of the practice.
With CQ walking meditations a head set is worn and a guided meditation is listened to. Intentions are set in stone and we leave the comfort of certainty for the unknown. Instructions regarding pace and when to stop or sit or pick up or slow the pace are given to the meditator by a guiding meditational teacher. The objective is to allow the meditator to get out of their head leaving any obsessions, routine thoughts or habitual thinking patterns that are negative behind.
Another objective of the more powerful styles of walking meditations is to get the person or group into a state of trans, or elevated energy and emotion where heart rate variability and even brain waves are changed as the meditation progresses. One should not underestimate the power of the body, heart and mind when they are brought together in a healing practice such as this.
There are many different styles of walking meditation. In the same way that when we say ‘yoga’ meditation doesn’t mean one thing either.” Some Theravada Buddhists, for instance, practice a form of walking meditation that includes walking barefoot or in very light shoes so that they can feel the ground below them. So that they can connect to it. Grounding techniques in meditation are also very popular forms of walking meditations. Other forms of walking meditation combine walking with breathing exercises or visualisations.
Followers of Thich Nhat Hanh’s meditations mentally repeat phrases like “I have arrived, I am home” with each step. Then you get people like Joe Dispenza who have influenced millions of people around the world with the healing benefits of mediation events which he hosts around the world with thousands of people having been healed in one way or another by getting beyond the limitations of the ind through meditation.
When meditation is mastered, the mind is unwavering like the flame of a candle in a windless place”—Bhagavad Gita
Go barefoot wherever possible or wear comfortable clothing and open, light shoes. What you want to do is be able to feel the connection, warmth and energy in your feet and body. You want to somehow embrace the ground below you if possible any way you can. There is power in mother earth we know little about. But it is definitely there. Otherwise if you’re wearing shoes you can simply become aware of the heal to toe and knee to foot and hip rhythms as you walk. Conscious awareness of everything is key at the end of the day. Connection is consciousness.
If you’re not using a guided walking meditation audio then you can focus on eliminating as much of your internal mind-chatter as possible When your attention drifts off, try and become aware of it and then bring it back to center. You can do this by focusing on the breath or by naming what you see, and then contemplating that “tree” or “wave” or “butterfly” for a brief moment, noticing in your own head space how everything is as connected as you are to the ground. Lift your arms whenever you remember to do so and take deep breaths often. A gentle greeting, bow or hand wave to people, objects and animals can make you even more connected if you are willing to be a little out there with your thinking.
Meditative walking is something anyone of us can start at any time to begin a practice that is so simple, yet so profoundly powerful that the elixir of these two friends, along with the simplicity and the wholeheartedness it brings, can allow you to the space for necessary healing and personal growth.
Walk into the world every morning with intention, silence, gratitude and a deep sense of mindfulness. Allow the thoughts you have to ebb and flow as you start to learn about how to incorporate contemplative walking into your daily practice. Out goes the autopilot. In comes the power of walking meditation.
Contemplative or meditative walking is about not knowing just flowing, noticing everything as it is without deep thoughts or questioning. This in turn allows answers to flow to us as if they are spoken through some kind of ancient and silent language. It is one of the rare pleasures of life today that still costs nothing!
Try a guided mindful walking meditation
Here you can try a guided mindful walking meditation for yourself. It is 60 minutes long and is not for the faint hearted. What the mediation has been created for is to calm the body, heart and mind and then lift up and focus your energy on creating certain changes in your thoughts, feeling and perceptions that will in turn have an effect on everything from your stress hormones, body-chemistry, neural nets and blood pressure. People describe these meditations not only as healing but life altering and we would love your input on your experience with the practice. Do the work in a group or alone.
Experience The power of walking meditation by using an online walking meditation. Use headphones and get out onto the beaten path and get practising. The beach, city or gym will all do. It matters not. Walk individually or as a group.
The act of meditation is being spacious.– Sogyal Rinpoche
For more information about The healing power of walking meditation get in touch today. Come and stay at the Centre for Healing and Life Transformation in South Africa, do the online awakening course or shop products online for home practice to get started.
10 benefits of doing walking meditations
- Walking meditation helps us feel less distracted by thoughts and allows us to enjoy our stroll more
- We focus on our stride in a walking meditation, like how we focus on our breath in a seated meditation
- We can practice walking meditation in a city, in a park, even at home. We can even practice it in a circle. We don’t have to go anywhere. A few of my clients us the treadmill in the gym to practice and others walk in the city, forests and beaches. That. is the beauty of it.
- Health benefits. Studies on the elderly, type 2 diabetes patients, and nursing students all demonstrate wide health benefits. Although research is in some cases tentative, results suggest that there are numerous health benefits to walking meditation. One common connection is a reduction/regulation of cortisol in the blood, which is the body’s primary stress indicating hormone. While the body and mind are working harder, stress regulating factors decrease. The act of walking peacefully and with intention is curative to one who practices it. The science is out and the research is in.
- You can use walking meditation as an introduction to meditation or simply practice it as a way to help yourself stay centered and block out stress and distraction during the day. Like other forms of movement meditation (including yoga), it also offers the opportunity to practice mindfulness while caring for our bodies by engaging in light exercise.
- A few minutes of walking meditation can leave you feeling calm, centered and collected and help you connect to the experience of being in your body. Like all forms of meditation, it also has proven health benefits: it can increase self-awareness, reduce stress and negative emotions, increase imagination and creativity, and promote mental health.
- Walking meditation can also help you reevaluate what you think “relaxing” should look like.
- Many people practice this form of meditation because it makes them happy. This is profound rather than simple. There is something a little weird almost about how it makes people at the very least happy.
- The science is in that it improves blood flow, reduces anxiety, normalised blood sugar levels, lessens depression symptoms, improves sleep, gratitude emotions and even enhances your balance which naturally fades with age unless practiced.
How to do a contemplative walking practice
Contemplative Walking is another type of walking meditation that we can try as something anyone of us can start at any time to begin a practice that is so simple, yet so profoundly powerful that the elixir of these two friends, along with the simplicity and the wholeheartedness it brings, can allow you to the space for necessary healing and personal growth.
Much of science argues today that walking is still the best all round exercise that their is. The pace, the balance and the natural brilliance of walking itself cannot be overrated.
How to start Contemplative Walking
- Set your intentions to take this walking time to nourish your soul.
- Breathe deeply and offer a small prayer of acknowledgement.
- Listen to your breath and focus on all the sensations of your body, head to toe.
- Next, take in the other senses by noticing everything intently. Just notice as if you are doing so for the first time.
- Use single, small, simple words for all that you experience rather than making constructs and sentences. Naming as if for the first time a bird, apple and tree.
- End in gratitude. I always end my walks with hands together as a mudra and a small bow.
Contemplative Walking, especially in nature, brings you closer to nature and your body, the internal is drawn to the external and vice versa. Walking in a forest for example has been called forest bathing or shinrin-yoku and perfectly describes what a walk should entail for the soul.
Finally if one is disabled or unable to walk you would have to try and be creative, get help from someone who can get you moving in a chair or on a bed or you may have to use your imagination. Mahasati or “great mindfulness” meditation (sometimes also called “rhythmic meditation“), which is done with just arm and hand movements is a good alternative. Whatever you do. – just practice and enjoy.