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.