Over the years I have read many accounts about doing walking meditation. Here is my own, which I sometimes carry out whilst walking alone.
Walking by its very nature can be rhythmic and relaxing. But is it possible to meditate at the same time?
Let’s be clear, one thing I have found is that a walking meditation is quite different from standard meditation. The latter requires you to sit comfortably and still the mind, to allow the excessive chatter of the left brain to dissipate and allow the more creative right brain to come into its own. You are allowing stillness and silence to enter your mind.
One of the best simple methods of standard meditation is to simply follow the breath, in and out, sensing the subtle changes of pressure on the nostrils. Your breathing will naturally slow down, your body will relax.
Whilst walking even at a relatively easy pace, depending on your level of fitness, your breathing will be deeper. Nevertheless, so long as you can maintain a steady pace, you can still concentrate on that breath.
My method is as follows:
- Allow at least half an hour for a walk. Forty five minutes is probably around the optimum time period.
- Pick a route you know, one you are either fond of, or find peaceful, or both. It doesn’t necessarily have to been in a quiet country setting or on a beach, for example. One can find solace even in a crowd if you control your breath and remain mindful.
- Set off at an easy pace, one you can maintain for the time period. Swing those arms gently too to maintain a rhythm in the walk.
- Set your eyes about eight to ten feet (three metres) ahead of you so you can see what’s ahead of you – intersperse this with occasional glances around so that you become aware of the environment you are in – obviously you do not want to walk into any one or any thing. This is not meant to be a day dream. Be careful. Accept everything around you as it is, don’t try to shut it out.
- After a minute or so, begin to focus on your breath, that sense of pressure in and out of your nostrils, the rise and fall of your chest.
- Now, if you wish, after around five minutes, you can then introduce calming key words, either to say or whisper out loud, or in your mind; I use ‘stillness’ to begin, with each inward breath. Then I bring in ‘tranquility’, ‘serenity’ and finally ‘peace’, the idea being that these words represent different levels of relaxation, each one getting calmer. You should begin to feel more at one not only with yourself but also within the environment you are walking. Effectively you are not trying to shut out the world as you would in your home, you are walking more peaceably within it.
- Equally, you don’t have to introduce any words, you can simply keep purely concentrating on the breath. In time you will probably find your own method; the key is the controlling of the breath. The idea is that not only can you have good exercise but you can also relax your mind more fully in the process. Once complete, try to maintain that sense of wholeness. How does your environment feel now? Afterwards, you may also become of aware of new ideas, new insights you never imagined before.
Naturally, there is always the risk that you may come across people you know, so you may have to interrupt the process. If you are walking in a town or city, then naturally you will have to regularly stop, look around. Even so, you can still maintain a strong sense of mindfulness with the breath. Just like in general meditation, if you find your mind wandering elsewhere for whatever reason, just bring it back to the breath.
Be easy on yourself and enjoy your freedom. After a period of time you may find that this little space becomes restorative, a little ‘you time’. And don’t you deserve it?
* Always remain mindful whilst walking, be careful.
Copyright Francis Barker 2020