What is walking meditation? Walking meditation is literally meditation practiced while walking. Walking meditation is also known as Kinhin in Buddhism, where the practice of meditation alternates between periods of walking and sitting meditation.
If you google the word 'meditation', you will find basically just yoga lotus postures, where you sit with your arms on your knees with your thumb and forefinger together, or other variations of yoga postures. Traditional walking meditation also has precise rules and technique. For example, the hands are placed in a certain way, and when taking the steps, the heel comes to the ground first.
The benefits of simple walking meditation in nature are similar to those of any more formal meditation. According to research, the health effects of meditation are the same regardless of its form, because they are based on the meditation part during the practice.
If you are looking for meditation that looks great on your IG shots, walking meditation is probably not your go-to option. It looks like walking. However, mindful walking requires practice, like any meditation.
Walking meditation is a form of mindfulness meditation. The aim of the practice is to focus your mind on how it feels like to walk.
What are the benefits of walking meditation?
The benefits of walking meditation have been broadly studied in research. Mindfulness and meditation have a positive effect on health and wellbeing in several ways. The benefits of meditation include, e.g., a reduction in anxiety, decreasing levels of the stress hormone cortisol, and the regeneration of nerve cells.
Walking meditation in nature can increase wellbeing even more than ordinary meditation that is practiced indoors, as just being in nature lowers blood pressure and reduces stress.
Walking meditation is suitable for almost everyone, because you can walk comfortably in your own natural posture, if various yoga postures seem impossible. The principles of walking meditation can also be applied to other types of movement if you have difficulties in walking.
Walking meditation is recommended to be practiced with bare feet or light shoes. In winter, however, you can just as well wear winter boots.
How do you start walking meditation in nature?
1. Find a quiet place.
Mindfulness walking does not require fancier surroundings than your local nature. For example, a forest path or seashore are good options. However, it is essential to find a place where you can be at peace without interruptions and distractions.
Ordinary, everyday nearby nature is a great place to start walking meditation, because it doesn't draw your attention in the same way as natural sites that are different from your everyday life.
2. A ten-meter route is enough for meditation.
The purpose of walking meditation is not to go from place A to place B or to complete a specific route. The idea is to walk, for example, a distance of ten meters back and forth. Staying in the same place helps you to focus on conscious walking and movement.
Walking meditation can also be practiced on a very short distance of two to five meters. However, if you want, you can freely walk a long distance without turning back and forth.
3. What do you do while walking?
Walking meditation focuses on the automatic movements of the body. Become conscious of the different parts of moving while you walk. Start by focusing on lifting your leg off the ground. Focus on shifting your body weight as you bring your leg forward. Consciously place your foot on the ground and focus on the feeling. Pay attention to each event in your body as you prepare for the next step. Focus on the new step the similar way.
4. Take ten to twenty steps at a time and stop.
Take a deep breath and feel your body and breath calmly. Stand still for as long as it feels good and comfortable. Then either continue on your path, or if you have chosen a short section to travel back and forth, turn back. Take ten to twenty steps again and breathe deeply.
5. Walk with slow pace.
A suitable walking meditation pace is one that feels comfortable and where you can focus on the movement and your sensations. Especially if you are not used to combining movement and meditation, a slow pace makes it much easier to focus.
If you haven't tried meditation before, the pace can be very slow. When meditating alone, it may be easier to find the right pace for yourself, as you can fully focus on perceiving your own movement.
6. Take a natural posture.
Meditation is about the mind, not the body. A yoga pose may create discomfort and take your attention away from the actual meditation practice. In walking meditation, you can be in as natural a posture as you want. You don't have to keep your hands in any special position, they can stay relaxed and naturally at your sides when you walk.
7. Practice mindful perception.
Focus on the details in both your walk and your surroundings. When you focus on the movement of your body while walking, you can become aware of how your mind is directing the movement. At some point you become aware of the connection between the intention and the actual doing.
Think about how the ground feels under your feet, or what sounds your steps make. Be mindful about what you see when your eyes focus on the surrounding nature. Be mindful about the sounds you hear in the same way.
8. What if your mind starts wandering?
At some point, your mind is not going to stay still. Especially at the beginning, when you don't have much experience with meditation yet, a wandering mind is very common. Gently try to direct your focus back first to your breath and then again to the steps and body sensations.
Some people benefit from mantras, which are some repeated sounds, words or phrases that bring rhythm to help focus. There is nothing mystical about mantras, and simple walking meditation does not need mantras. The most essential thing in all meditation is to find the most natural way to do the practice.
9. What health effects do you notice after meditation?
The health effects of meditation can be seen surprisingly quickly. You may notice a more peaceful pulse and calming of breathing. Your body may feel somehow more open and its center of gravity lower. You may experience a general sense of calmness and an inexplicably more positive feeling. You may sleep better at night.
It is possible that you will not experience anything amazing after the first practice. You should continue walking meditation for several weeks. Although research has measured results in just a few minutes, meditation is recommended as a daily practice for at least two months to achieve significant health benefits.
10. How can you make walking meditation a daily routine?
Try to go outside every day and combine walking meditation with other outdoor activities. The optimal timing depends on your personality and preferences.
I have got a busy mind during transitions, when I’m leaving from or returning back to somewhere. The best time for meditation is somewhere in the middle of a longer walk.
At first, you should practice walking meditation for ten minutes. The time needed is so short that it is quite easy to find time for meditation even in a busy day. After a few weeks of practicing, you might be able to be mindful for 20 minutes, and the day doesn't seem so busy anymore.
Tip: You can make variations of walking meditation for different activities in nature. For example, hiking meditation and trail running meditation create new experiences to nature exercise!