Walking Meditation

Walking meditation provides a welcome method for bringing the meditative mind into action. Though at first it may be easier for you to become mindful of your breathing, thinking, and surroundings when there isn't a lot going on around you, you'll find that the real power of mindfulness is to be found in taking mindfulness into action.

One of the simplest ways to do this is to practice walking mindfully. Mindful walking is an important method of focusing your attention while you're moving.

In our work with the U.S. Army Green Berets we used to call this "power walking" because mind and body, energy and intention, are all focused together. To get a feeling for this, begin by just walking very slowly and mindfully. Once you get a feeling for it you can practice mindful walking at any pace in any place.

Mindfulness reveals that just as sound begins and ends in silence, movement begins and ends in stillness. So to begin, first feel yourself standing still. Focus your mindful attention with the breath and smile knowingly to yourself.

Then, when you're ready to walk, notice how you shift your balance and weight to one foot, and then feel the other foot lifting ... and feel the foot moving, touching the ground .,. . then feel your weight and balance shift again.

You can see that each step has four phases: shifting .. lifting.. . moving. . . placing. Being very present, very mindful, you walk and know each step of your walking. At first you may find it helpful to make a mental note for each part of the step, thinking or saying softly to yourself, "lifting ... " "moving ... " "placing ... " "shifting...." Once your mind quiets down and gets more focused, you can let go of noting the movements and simply notice them.

When you practice walking meditation, the goal is not to get somewhere or to accomplish something. The goal is to simply, fully arrive in each moment, with each step. Your measure of success is in how fully present you are with what you're doing.

If you understand this, you can practice walking meditation in your own living room. Slowly, with full awareness, walk across the room, turn around with full awareness and walk back across the room. Rather than pacing back and forth, you're actually bringing your mind and body into focus, which means that whatever you turn your attention to next, you'll be able to be more fully present and think with greater clarity and power.

Once you have a feeling for walking meditation, you can practice everywhere you go and at any pace. When walking briskly, you might notice, "step ... step ... step ...... or "left ... right ... left ... right." Or even "arriving ... home .....or "here ... and now ...." Be mindful of your whole body as you walk and remember to smile, relax, and let the breath flow naturally.

See if you can bring a quality of tenderness to your steps, as if you're planting a flower that will spring up and bloom wherever you place your feet, or as if each footstep brings a blessing to the earth. When distractions arise, smile to yourself, acknowledge them without getting involved, and continue your mindful walking.

Mindful walking is an excellent method of meditation, especially at times when the mind is agitated and it is difficult to sit quietly. Start off slowly.

Begin by noticing the sequence of movements as you walk: standing, lifting, moving, placing one foot, shifting your weight. Then lift, move, place, and shift your weight to the other foot. Move no faster than you are able to with complete awareness. This is not a moving meditation so much as an exercise in developing continuity of mindful awareness. At times, experiment with walking more swiftly, simply noting each time a foot touches the ground. Be loose and natural. Experience the flow of movement, moment to moment, with awareness.

Remember, the goal of this walking meditation is not to get somewhere. Each moment you are fully present in the flow of movement, you have arrived at your destination.

[Adapted from the book "Luminous Mind" by Joel & Michelle Levey]

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