We’re all familiar with the expression, “Walk it off.” While this phrase was originally used in a literal sense as coaches’ advice for players with minor injuries, it’s now a suggested fix for just about anything. And it can work. Walking can be an invaluable way to process thoughts and emotions, in order to clear the mind.
In the Taoist and Buddhist traditions, we can train ourselves so walking becomes a meditation. Walking meditation is less about “walking it off,” however, and more about walking into a more conscious space by cultivating presence of breath, body, and mind. Essentially, each step, which is married to our breath, becomes a unique destination.
As Zen monk Thich Nhat Hanh states in his book, The Art of Power, “Everyone needs to walk. When we walk from work to the subway, the parking lots, or the restroom, whether we are going several blocks or just a few steps, we can always enjoy walking meditation. It means we learn to walk with awareness of every step we take, free of thinking and free of our projects…Walk like a free person.”
While walking meditation can be practiced at anytime, cutting out space specifically for learning the technique is hugely beneficial. This will effectively assist you in bringing walking mediation into your everyday journey from point A to B to C to D, and so on.
Maggie and I invite you to try walking mediation this weekend! You are welcome to do it in addition to your 11 minute seated practice or in substitution of it. As a note: Turn those phones off or leave them at home, please!
Try it today!
- Designate about 10-15 minutes for this practice anytime today.
- Wear comfortable shoes that allow your feet to spread out. If you’re someplace warm (definitely not here in the Northeast right now!) and in nature, go barefoot! You can also walk barefoot indoors. (Walking in a circle in a large room is fine)
- As you walk, connect the action to the breath. Say silently to your feet, “In, in” as your inhale and step, and “Out, out” as your exhale and step. Find your own natural rhythm.
- Once this feels more familiar, visualize your foot making contact with the Earth. As Thich Nhat Hanh says, imagine your foot “kissing” the Earth with each step. What can be a better reminder of the fact that we are alive and one with nature?
Maintain an organized practice like this, and/or add it to your life whenever. Give yourself the gift of transforming walking into time lived.
If we walk only to arrive somewhere else, we sacrifice the walking itself. Then there’s no life during the time of walking. That is a loss… It’s a matter of training only. There are so many wonders of life available to us right now. – Thich Nhat Hanh
by Sophie Slater