Walking Meditation for Peace of Mind
Walking Meditation for Peace of Mind
by Bob Davis
Many people are turned off by the prospect of meditation, because they think they must sit still in a chair or cross-legged on the floor in order to meditate. When they try to sit still, they feel restless and even agitated, because by stilling their bodies, they become acutely aware of how fast their minds are churning with one thought after another.
Therefore many of us searching for peace of mind cannot sit still for long, and so give up the practice of sitting meditation soon after we’ve tried it. This is especially true for those of us who live extremely busy lives.
When we sit to meditate, our minds come up with a dozen reasons not to engage in the practice of stillness: This is a waste of time. I need to do the laundry. I haven’t checked my email today. I must finish reading that novel for my book club. What’s the latest news from around the world? I need to keep informed . . . And so on.
If you’ve tried sitting meditation and become frustrated to the point of giving it up because you found it distasteful and too difficult, then there is another time-honored way of meditating to achieve peace of mind. It’s called walking meditation and, like yoga, it is meditation in motion.
The practice is very simple and can be done by itself, or as a prelude to sitting meditation, for slow mindful walking tends to quiet the mind and the breath, making it easier to sit after a walking practice. But walking meditation is a meditation in and of itself, and so there is no need to follow it with sitting meditation if you are not inclined to do so.
To practice walking meditation, you need an unencumbered space of anywhere from ten to thirty feet, where you can walk back and forth in a straight line. Begin by standing at the start point and taking a few deep breaths. Some people like to hold their wrists behind their backs; others like to let their arms hang by their sides; and there are those who like to interlace their fingers and let their hands hang in front of them. You might want to experiment with the positioning of your hands and arms to find what works best for you. After taking a few deep breaths, begin slowly walking straight ahead, taking slow small steps. Because the walking is very slow, it’s necessary to take small steps to avoid losing your balance. Breathe normally while you walk, and pay attention to your movement, the lifting and lowering of your feet, and the rolling of each foot from the heel to the toes with each step you take.
Some people like to synchronize their breathing with their walking, taking one step with each breath. Other people like to be mindful of their feet and legs. Among the latter, there are those who like to give themselves cues like “lifting, stepping, placing” as they walk. You can do this silently or verbally in a quiet voice. Cuing yourself like this is a good way to bring your mind back to the practice, if you become distracted.
When you reach the end of your walking space, stop and stand still for a few mindful breaths, and then slowly turn and begin walking back to your start point. When you reach it, stop and stand still for a few mindful breaths, and then turn around and repeat. Some people like to be barefoot when they do walking meditation. Of course this depends on your walking space. You can do the practice while wearing socks or you can do the practice while wearing shoes. However, the advantage of waking barefoot or in socks is that it allows you to feel the sensations of your feet as you walk across the floor, or through the grass if you practice your walking meditation outside.
When first starting, you can practice your walking meditation for ten minutes, and then increase the time as you see fit. Or practice as long as you like, without timing yourself.
You can find inner peace by walking slowly and mindfully. Try it and see.
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Bob Davis is the coauthor of How to Achieve Peace of Mind and a Certified Yoga Teacher.
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