So far, we have learned a basic meditation technique and a few practical concepts. With daily practice, we have applied and internalized these techniques. Now is the perfect time to expand our practice and explore a new form of meditation: walking meditation.
Walking meditation is important, because the purpose of meditation is to train the mind to be attentive and mindful in every circumstance. Therefore, we should train ourselves not only on the cushion, but while walking. You will soon see that walking meditation comes with its own set of advantages and challenges. Practicing it will increase your mind’s resilience and greatly deepen your overall meditation practice.
Walking meditation helps us bridge the gap between formal sitting practice and daily life. Eventually, this will lead to the cultivation of a meditative state of mind throughout the day, whether we are on the cushion or not. By maintaining the continuity of our meditation practice, we will progress faster and reap more profound and enduring benefits.
There are many ways to practice walking meditation, and we will explore more advanced walking meditation techniques in later stages. For now, we will learn a simple and useful walking meditation technique that can be practiced in public without attracting attention. While it is easier to practice in calm and predictable environments, you can practice walking meditation anytime you walk. In fact, you can practice this technique without walking, while waiting for the bus or sitting on the subway.
Here is how we will practice walking meditation:
- Present moment. Become aware of the present moment. Open yourself to your surroundings. What sounds can you hear? What colors do you see? What smells can you discern? How do you feel? Let yourself appreciate this moment.
- Sensations. While you stay aware of your surroundings, bring your attention to the sensations in your feet. Center your attention on the rapidly changing sensations in your feet. Can you feel the weight of your body shifting from one foot to the other?
- Introspective awareness. Inevitably, the mind will wander away, either distracted by a sound, a sight or a thought. Like with sitting meditation, when you notice that the mind has wandered away, take a moment to appreciate this newfound awareness. Then, bring attention back to the sensations in your feet.
Practicing walking meditation in this way is excellent mind training. With eyes open and a changing environment, the mind’s natural tendency is to jump from one thing to the next. By bringing our attention back to the sensations in our feet, we will strengthen our “mind muscles”, and this will help us both in daily life and during sitting meditation. As walking requires that we remain conscious of our surroundings, we will further develop our peripheral awareness and clearly discern attention and peripheral awareness. These benefits will stay with us on the cushion: our introspective awareness will be clearer and more stable.
I recommend you practice walking meditation a few times per week, as your schedule and activities allow. Personally, I use walking meditation whenever I walk or wait. In the latter case, while I don’t actually walk, the same technique applies : I mindfully observe the sensations in my feet while I stay aware of the environment. Practicing like this, I can make the best out of waiting periods. Instead of seeing waiting as boring and annoying, I see it as an enjoyable opportunity.