Walking Meditation

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Many people say they would love to meditate if they only had the time but with their hectic schedules they can’t seem to fit it in. Setting an intention to meditate every time you walk during your workday is an excellent place to start if you feel too pressed for time. If there are short destinations that you usually use your car for, like going to the grocery store, try walking to those places too.

It doesn’t matter how far the distance is really; it can be from your desk to the bathroom or break room a few times a day and you will still start to notice yourself feeling more relaxed and in the moment. About eight months ago I started walking pretty much everywhere I go around a two mile radius of my house and I would never go back. I always feel refreshed and invigorated and I really don’t even lose that much time.

I think one reason that walking meditation works so well to bring about a state of peace and equilibrium is that there are symbolic elements like moving forward in your life, being grounded, and feeling connected that you experience viscerally. You get back in touch with a deeper part of your nature. Humans were not made to sit around all day at our desks or in the various means of modern transportation. Obviously these technologies have great utility and there are distances that are too far to walk for some schedules but you will be shocked by how good you feel when you make a conscious effort to walk more while practicing mindfulness, and by how unappealing sitting in a car or bus will come to be.

And no matter how busy your job is you probably have at least two fifteen minute breaks and a thirty minute lunch that you can use. You will dramatically improve your mental health and job performance and you will be more pleasant to be around while feeling more spiritual just by walking while concentrating on your breathing. The Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh loves walking meditations and we are going to end this piece with a poem he wrote that you can say to yourself while breathing and walking that will make you feel really good.

Start small by just choosing an object in your line of site, like a plant at the end of a row of cubicles. Then make up your mind that every time you walk in that direction, every step you take from where you are to the plant will be done in the moment. Each step will provide you with peace and happiness. Try not to worry at all about the past or the future. No matter how hectic your schedule is, for these few steps you can leave it all behind and just experience the gift and the miracle of your life right now in the present. Be aware of how extraordinary it is that you are walking on this earth and have the power to consciously decide how you want to feel and be. Let happiness flood into you as you consciously and mindfully take each step.

If in this short space you start to feel distracted and lose touch with being completely in the moment don’t get discouraged or down on yourself. You will have countless more opportunities during the day to do it again. Mindfulness is not something that just happens and it takes work and practice.

Once you start going for longer walks, you will want to focus on your breath and let the rhythm of your breathing match the rhythm of your walking. This is especially rewarding if you can find a park or some other area that is a more natural setting. You will start to feel really good and might be surprised by the powerful emotions that show up during your walk or shortly after it. Let them come and be aware of them in the moment without trying to alter them. Here is the poem you can say to yourself while you are walking:

In, out
Deep, slow
Calm, ease
Smile, release
Present moment, wonderful moment.
(Thich Nhat Hanh, The Art of Power, Pos 2051 Kindle Version)

On your in breath you will want to say the first part to yourself, and on your out breath the second part. At first you can simply focus on ‘In, out’.  Just let yourself be aware that you are breathing in and breathing out, and let that be enough. Once you are ready you can start incorporating the subsequent lines so that you will say the poem to yourself in an endless cycle that matches your in and out breaths and matches the rhythm of your walking. This is a great way to keep your mind from wandering, focused in the present moment while feeling as one with the universe. Eventually you won’t need the poem anymore and you will slide right into a meditative state any time you walk anywhere. But use it as long as you want to and let yourself enjoy the gift of your life in the moment.