Wildmind Buddhist Meditation

Walking Meditation

Sit : Love : Give

Wildmind is ad-free, and it takes many hours each month to create and edit the posts you see here. If you benefit from what we do here, please support Wildmind with a monthly donation.


You can also become a one-time benefactor with a single donation of any amount:


The “stages” of walking meditation

Walking meditation - african woman walking Unlike many of the other practices described in this site, walking meditation has no formal stages.

But there is a logical sequence to the practice, and this sequence is rooted in a traditional formulation called “the four foundations of mindfulness.”

These are four levels of experience in which we can anchor our minds to prevent them from being fragmented and strewn around like leaves torn from a tree in an autumn gale.

These levels are

  • our physical sensations
  • our feelings
  • our mental and emotional states, and
  • objects of consciousness.

These four foundations give us a way of breaking down a very complex experience so that we can focus on one aspect at a time.

The four foundations crop up in many places in the Buddhist texts on meditation, and so these can be considered to be a very important teaching.

Essentially, these aren’t stages that we work through one at a time, like we do with the development of lovingkindness practice. Instead they are simply a tool to help us appreciate our experience. However because each foundation is more subtle than those preceding it, we’ll work through them in order.

We start with the physical sensations of the body, which are relatively easy to experience (except when — as often happens — we get lost in thought and all but “forget” that we have a body). We then progress to more subtle aspects of our experience.

We’ll look at each of these in foundations turn, and we’ll also look at how we start and end the practice.

Comments

avatar

Comment from mark debono
Time: August 29, 2007, 5:25 pm

I use walking meditation as an insight exercise. Walking at normal pace concentrating on the feet pressing the ground feeling each irregularity in the path. As the walk progresses the focus alternates from the feet to the breathing and other physical feelings as they arise.
You say there are no stages as such associated with walking meditation. I experience very definite stages first happiness, then two or three very peaceful stages progressing to really solid concentration, followed by a feeling of expanding out of the limits of the body and then a feeling that the whole range of vision walking like a giant limitless bubble. The field of vision has a weird clarity unlike normal vision where clarity reduces at the periphery It’s almost as if I can see in 360 degrees, though I can’t but that’s the sense I experience most or all of these stages if I walk more than an hour or so. The mid stages are excellent for insight but the last stage is just as it is and totally absorbing. The only discernible thoughts in this stage are a sort of balancing effort to maintain the state.

I would be interested to know if you are familiar with such stages in walking meditation.

avatar

Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: August 30, 2007, 11:50 am

Hi Mark. Thanks for a very interesting comment. What I wrote was “Unlike the other practices described in this site, walking meditation has no definite stages,” but what I should have written (and have now) is “Unlike the other practices described in this site, walking meditation has no formal stages.

Where the stages you’re experiencing come from is of course your own experience as your mind engages with the practice. That’s rather different from, say, the metta bhavana or mindfulness of breathing where there the practice itself is structure. That’s the difference I was talking about.

What you describe sounds very familiar to me. I find that I start with noticing obvious physical sensations (the pressure of the feet, etc) and then start to notice more subtle sensations. I become more aware of feelings and emotions, and then (just as you do) I notice an expansion of my awareness into the outside world and a breakdown of the sense of separateness from the world that I normally experience.

If you look at the section entitled “The ‘stages’ of walking meditation” and in particular at the page called “Balancing inner and outer experience” I think you’ll find we have very similar ways of experiencing the practice.

avatar

Comment from Alice
Time: December 11, 2007, 6:19 am

would the walking cd also be relevant for swimming – ie with a waterproof mp3 player?? i need something to help pass the lengths and am interested in knowing more about meditation too.

cheers

alice

avatar

Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: December 11, 2007, 7:37 am

Hi Alice,

The principles of walking meditation can be applied to any physical activity, although the specific instructions on the CD would have to be reinterpreted to match what you’re doing while swimming. That shouldn’t be too hard — for example when I’m talking about feeling the soles of your feet making contact with the ground you can instead feel the pressure of the water on your feet, or hands, or whatever (depending on which kind of stroke you’re doing). And a lot of what we do in walking meditation, like paying attention to our thoughts and feelings, has nothing directly to do with the fact of walking. I think that with a bit of creativity it could certainly be done.

avatar

Comment from Jason
Time: July 1, 2008, 10:23 am

Motivated by recent unpleasant upheavals in my life, I have recently become more interested in meditation, although I had already had some informal ‘training’ in the past.

In regards to what Alice wrote about meditation in swimming, I’ve actively meditated with a focus on body kinesthetics while shooting the bow. I know that the Japanese Kyudo archery practitioners do this formally. As I’ve recently been learning more about ‘formal’ meditation practices, I realize even more that shooting the bow has a strong meditative quality. However I think it lacks some of the elements that walking brings to meditation.

Walking is different than shooting the bow or many other physical activities because of the chemicals it releases in our bodies. From what I understand, when a person does the physical action of walking, certain endorphans are released fairly early on in the walk. Crawling will do the same thing. It has to do with our bodies recognizing a need to move for survival. Crawling teaches us the alternating neuro-musclar patterning for walking. The sooner we can walk/move the greater the chances for survival so our bodies release chemicals that make us feel good when we walk to encourage us to move! So I’ve been told…

GREAT website! I’ve learned a lot here and will keep comming back as I continue my meditation practices!

Thanks!
Jason

avatar

Comment from Glenn Spencer
Time: April 10, 2010, 9:51 pm

Once again this site is impacting my life. It keeps doing that. It has shaped the way I do concentration meditation, served as the beginning point of mantra practice, and I drew pretty much the entirety of my metta meditation practice from wildmind.

Over the last year or two, come to think of it, about half my practice has become wildmind based. And that amazing Bodhipaksa kindness, the gentleness and calmness, is pervading the entirety of what I do. This surely must be the most precious treasure here.

Be well, Bodhipaksa, be happy, be free from all suffering, be filled with joy without ceasing. (“what do you mean”, Bodhipaksa replied, “I’m Scottish already.”)

avatar

Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: April 10, 2010, 10:34 pm

Hi Glenn,

Many thanks for your great kindness in writing. It’s always good to hear that what we do is appreciated.

All the best,
Bodhipaksa

avatar

Comment from Dev
Time: August 20, 2010, 12:42 am

Hi this might seem strange but any way I should write it down.
I used to go for a morning walk in the past and during those walks I had insights into things in life and “bites of wisdom” like pieces of Jigsaw puzzle falling into place.
I never thought it as meditation then.Now again I started walking as I am putting on weight and to motivate myself I tell myself that walking is good as it a combination of exercise and since I coax myself from bed to walk in the morning it is meditation(sort of self discipline) so I achieve two benefits in one go.
Out of the blue now I find that this is an established practice.

avatar

Comment from ANDREA KING
Time: January 18, 2012, 11:25 am

I have just started ‘Mindful Meditation’ and am noticing how much better I am feeling already. I seem to have more energy, am sleeping better and feel more cheerful! Someone I know finds it very difficult to sit still for any length of time and finds the thought of meditating sitting still very off putting but Walking Meditation sounds just right for her.

Leave a comment