Walking meditation is one of the most widespread forms of Buddhist practice, and has the advantage that it can be done anytime we’re walking. It’s sometimes used as a way to break up periods of sitting meditation, giving the body a rest, but is frequently done as a meditation practice in its own right.
The Buddha described five benefits from doing walking meditation:
- One is fit for long journeys
- One is fit for striving
- One has little disease
- That which is eaten, drunk, chewed, tasted, goes through proper digestion
- The composure attained by walking up & down is long-lasting.
Anything we do can become meditative, including eating, driving, washing, cleaning the house, and, of course, walking. Historically, Buddhist monks in India would make walking an important part of their daily practice, remaining mindful as they walked around performing the daily tasks of life such as fetching water or going to the bathroom, as well as when on the alms round as they begged for food by going from door to door, and as they simply walked from one place to another as they crossed the country. It was natural for them to make the simple act of walking into an opportunity to develop mindfulness and lovingkindness.
Walking meditation also became a scheduled activity in which practitioners would walk up and down (or in some cases around a circular course) for a given period of time, just as they would have fixed periods of sitting meditation. Periods of walking meditation help the body to remain at ease and to recover from any tension that builds up due to repeated inactivity. But it’s also an opportunity to experience the body in action; in sitting meditation the body is still, while in walking meditation we can pay attention to the body as it moves, producing stronger and more easily observed sensations.
There are many forms of walking meditation, and I’ve done two different kinds taken from Zen traditions and one from Theravadin Buddhism. The main form I’m going to teach here has the advantage that it doesn’t require that you walk particularly slowly, meaning that you can do it while walking in a park or even in your local high street without drawing attention to yourself.
Walking meditation is perhaps the form of meditation that’s most amenable to the on-the-go modern lifestyle. Many people find it hard to set aside time to sit, but just about everyone does some walking, even if it’s just a trip to the grocery store. And since most of us don’t get enough exercise, walking meditation gives us the opportunity to keep both the body and mind healthy.
Walking meditation can be a lot of fun. It helps us to enjoy the experience of having a body, and can be very sensuous and immensely pleasurable.