by Lisa M. Wolfson
I have tried for years to master the art of meditation. I find it difficult to keep my mind still, to block out distractions while sitting for long periods of time. Shortly after my breast cancer surgery, I was introduced to the practice of walking meditation, which allowed me to practice “mindfulness” — the art of being in the present moment — in a more dynamic way.
Walking meditation is easy to practice and enhances physical, mental and spiritual well-being. It is especially effective for people (like me) who have difficulty sitting still for long periods of time because it opened the door to all of the benefits of meditation, which, in turn, paved the way for me to actually do stationary meditations as well.
The key to a walking meditation is to focus on the act of walking itself, rather than the act of getting from one place to another.
Here are some other suggestions about walking meditation:
A walking meditation can be practiced between 15 minutes to one hour indoors or outdoors. I prefer outdoors, but you can walk around the perimeter of the biggest room in your house, if you prefer. Wander aimlessly, being somewhere rather than going somewhere.
Walk at a slow, comfortable pace. My golden rule: If you are concentrating on the energy required by the movement, you are walking too fast. If your mind drifts off, you are walking too slow.
Be mindful of your breathing. This helps to center the mind. Be mindful of your walking — take slow, small deliberate steps.
Don’t focus on any particular thing — be aware of everything. Smile with your eyes, taking everything in. Let the smile travel throughout your body. Imagine every cell of your body smiling as all sadness and worry slip away.
Become aware of the number of footsteps per breath, whether it’s 2, 3 or 4 steps per breath (counting both inhalation and exhalation). In time, you will find your natural rhythm, adding or subtracting footsteps until you’ve found a natural steps-to-breath ratio.
Now focus outward, keeping minimum attention on your body and your movements. It will feel like you are looking with your whole body, not just your eyes. Take everything in and be present in the moment!
Meditations with movement, such as walking meditation and even Tai Chi and Qi Gong, teach us about being in a state of mindfulness in every moment. We practice maintaining mindfulness during activity, which is when we generally become mindless. In his book, True Meditation, Zen master Adyashanti explains that “true meditation” is to be mindful in all situations, whether you’re driving, going shopping, sitting or walking.
So take a walk and enjoy a true meditation.
Lisa Wolfson lives in Rockville Centre, New York, and volunteers at You Can Thrive!, an organization that provides free and low-cost support services for breast cancer survivors.
Thank you to Nick Hardin for the use of his photo.