On Fridays, we love to write about getting outside. It’s great for your physical and mental health. One way to enjoy getting out and about is through walking meditation, a Buddhist practice that is meant to help you find awareness through your body, mind and steps on the Earth.
The traditional version of walking meditation starts with breathing and centering your body in the physical space you walk around. Traditionally, Buddhist monks and nuns sing songs about walking on journeys to nowhere without hurry or purpose. While walking, you pay attention to your breathing and the feel of your steps. You stroll and smile while focusing on the wonder of being alive and present. As you walk, you say, or think, the phrase, “Breathing in, I know Mother Earth is in me. Breathing out, I know I am in Mother Earth.”
There are two methods of breathing you can follow. You can take one breath for each step, paying attention to how your foot lands on the ground. Or, you can count how many steps you take whole breathing in and out naturally. The reason either of these options work is that it’s about linking your breathing and mind to the physical movements of walking.
The wonderful thing about walking meditation is that, while the traditional song speaks about going nowhere, you can go someplace. You can follow the practice and connect to your body as you walk around on errands or are out for exercise. You can link the meditation to more mundane, necessary and practical tasks that have to get done. Unlike some forms of meditation that require you to take time out of your day, walking meditation can be a calming activity you do while handling something else.
Studies have said you see health benefits and stress relief if you practice it for 10 minutes a day for a week. Some versions are more controlled, calling for specific numbers of paces, walking at a precise speed and stepping heel-first in an exact manner. However, simply getting out there and starting to pay more attention to your walking is a great first step.
“Each mindful breath, each mindful step, reminds us that we are alive on this beautiful planet,” said Thich Nhat Hanh, the mink who first popularized walking meditation. “We don’t need anything else. It is wonderful enough just to be alive, to breathe in and to make one step. We have arrived at where real life is available — the present moment. If we breathe and walk in this way, we become as solid as a mountain.”
He continued saying. “Our breathing has the function of helping our body and mind to calm down. As we walk, we can say, ‘Breathing in, I calm my body. Breathing out, I bring peace into my body.’ Calming the breath calms the body and reduces any pain and tension.”
This form of meditation could be fantastic for people who find sitting still difficult or want to pair their meditative time with movement. If you try it, you might find it’s the perfect fit for you.