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Walking Meditation Guide: How to Practice Meditative Walking

Walking meditation combines walking and meditating in a user-friendly mindfulness practice that promotes physical, emotional, and mental well-being.

We know that both mindfulness and walking are good for our mental, emotional, and physical health. The practice of walking meditation combines the two activities in a user-friendly way that appeals to beginners and experienced meditators alike.

As a gentle form of physical exercise, walking meditation counters the impact of our largely sedentary lifestyles, supporting heart health, digestion, mobility, and much more.

Through the cultivation of present-moment awareness, it promotes better mood, decreases stress and anxiety, and cultivates a greater feeling of connection with others and with the environment around us and an overall sense of peace and well-being.

And did we mention how easy it is to do? If you find sitting in meditation too challenging, or when you simply feel like moving your body or changing things up, walking meditation offers a highly relaxing and accessible way to cultivate mindfulness.

Read on to learn more.

What is Walking Meditation?

Walking meditation is a practice that pairs mindfulness meditation with slow, deliberate walking along a predetermined path in a place where you can walk silently and won’t be disturbed.

The physical motion of walking becomes an anchor, or focus, for your meditation, allowing you to easily pay attention to bodily sensations as you move, one step at a time, along your chosen path while keeping your awareness in the present moment.

In some Buddhist traditions, such as the Japanese Zen tradition, walking meditation, or kinhin, offers an adjunct form of meditation practice that’s particularly beneficial after sitting for long periods of time.

The influential Buddhist teacher Thich Nhat Hanh, who extolled walking meditation outdoors as an important mindfulness activity in itself and felt it was essential for connecting more deeply with the environment, described it as walking “in such a way that we know we are walking.”

But you don’t have to ascribe to any specific belief to benefit from walking as meditation. Strengthening your mindfulness skills with mindful walking or walking meditation will reap physical and mental benefits even greater than either walking or meditating alone.

10 Walking Meditation Benefits

  • Improves balance
  • May help you sleep better
  • Decreases stress and anxiety
  • Can help manage mild to moderate depression
  • Can quell rumination that fuels emotional upset
  • Encourages an overall sense of peace and well being
  • As a gentle form of exercise, it improves circulation and fat loss
  • A walking meditation in nature can greatly improve mood and outlook
  • As a mindfulness practice, it helps develop focus and concentration
  • When you feel too agitated to sit and meditate, mindful walking meditation can help disperse some of that restless energy and quiet your mind

How to Meditate While Walking: Step-by-Step

Choose your location.

Before you begin a walking meditation, make sure that you’re choosing a path where you won’t be disturbed or encounter any obstacles. For example, a busy city center might not be the ideal place for walking in a meditative state, but a quiet section of a nearby park could be perfect.

Identify your path.

Unlike mindful walking, where you might walk freely, meditative walking is typically done in a contained area, where you can feel comfortable and safe to completely pay attention to how your body feels in the present moment, and observe specific stimuli in the environment around you.

Some Buddhist traditions practice walking in a straight line, for 10-20 paces, and then turning and walking back along the same path. You continue like this, back and forth, for the entire length of the meditation session. The path itself and the slow rhythm of your walking become like mantras to hold your focus.

You might also try labyrinth-walking meditation.

It's a popular nonsecular contemplative practice, in the circular maze-like patterns often found outdoors in public gardens or indoors at spiritual centers. To do it, you might hold a question in your mind, repeat a mantra or prayer, or simply walk in a meditative state along the winding path until you reach the center of the labyrinth. Once there, you might pause, take a few moments to check in with yourself, formulate a new question or mantra, and then return to the path and, continuing your meditative walk, follow it back out to the beginning.

Do circle-walking meditation.

It can achieve a similar effect: You walk slowly and deliberately in one direction, paying attention to the sensations of walking or to your mantra, and then when you complete the circle or a set number of rotations, you simply notice, turn, and continue in the opposite direction.

Be comfortable.

While you don’t need special gear to walk and meditate, you should feel comfortable and be dressed appropriately for the temperature, whether indoors or out.

That’s it! The accessibility of meditative walking is just one of the many benefits. Why not try it for yourself?

Listen to Your Body

Meditation · 5-20 mins

Head-to-Body

So much of our stress comes from being caught in our thoughts and ideas. In this meditation, we'll drop from our head to our body, the one place that is always present.

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Here’s how to do walking meditation:

  1. Go to your chosen location and take a moment or two to check in with yourself. Enjoy a few deep, clearing breaths, and feel yourself rooting to the ground.
  2. Decide how you’ll hold your hands. Three common ways are:
    • lightly clasped behind your back
    • held in front at your navel with one hand covering the loose fist of the other hand
    • hung loosely at your sides
  3. Soften your gaze and look downward about six feet in front of you.
  4. Begin walking at roughly half the speed of your normal pace and with slightly smaller steps. The goal is to slow way down the usually automatic activity of walking.
  5. Begin to open your awareness to your body. You might start by noticing your breathing: the way the air flows into your nostrils—is it cool, warm, sharp, soft? Notice any expansion in your body as breath fills you. As you exhale, observe how your body relaxes on the release.
  6. Continue turning into your body. Notice your head at the top of your spine, the position of your shoulders. How do your hands feel? Just observe these places with curiosity, lightly resting your awareness on each for a moment.
  7. Begin to pay attention to how your body feels walking: the engagement of your right leg as it lifts and moves through the step; the press of your right foot into the ground—heel, midfoot, ball, toes; the engagement of your left leg as it lifts and moves through stepping; the press of your left foot into the ground.
  8. If you reach the end of your path, note that you’ve reached the end, pause for a breath or two, then turn and begin slowly walking in the other direction, continuing your meditation.
  9. Open your awareness to notice sensations stimulated by the environment around you: any sounds you hear, the felt sense of touch on your skin, a color in your soft field of vision. See if you can hold more than one sensation in your awareness at once—your feet pressing into the ground and gentle wind on your face and the sound of dogs playing nearby.
  10. When your mind wanders, simply notice, and gently bring it back to one of your anchors.
  11. Continue along your path for the set amount of time for your meditation. When you’re ready to stop, bring your attention back to your full body standing, observe how you feel, take a full breath, look around, and go back to your day.

Try It for Yourself

Meditation · 10 mins

Walking

A simple and universal practice for developing embodied awareness. You can do this walking meditation no matter where you are.

Walking Meditation vs. Sitting Meditation

While walking meditation and sitting meditation share similar techniques and benefits, the difference between the two is the introduction of movement.

Like a seated meditation practice, walking meditation employs an anchor to help hold your attention in the present moment instead of letting it drift off into thought. You gently bring your awareness back to that anchor whenever it strays.

But walking meditation also uses bodily sensations to help anchor your awareness. The press of your foot into the ground, engagement of your leg muscles—these physical sensations become part of the mindfulness experience.

Walking meditation can be added to a regular meditation practice or done instead of sitting meditation. It can also be helpful when you have a lot of excess energy and sitting feels challenging. Most meditation experts recommend making seated meditation the primary practice, and using walking meditation as an adjunct.

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