I tried a walking meditation for the first time a couple of months ago in my weekly meditation class. I have to say, I didn’t like it. We were in a circle, eyes down, hands in jnana mudra (the wisdom seal) or dhyana mudra (the meditation seal – my personal choice), and the objective was to walk mindfully, taking a step with each inhale/exhale at a slow pace. We were to keep an equal distance between us and the person in front of us, though remaining mindful at the same time.
I found it stressful. I found myself too focused on the speed of those in front and behind me to concentrate on my own step. I didn’t like it.
During another class, we did the same walking meditation, but this time walking in a line. We each took a position along the wall and started to walk at our own pace. With nobody in front or behind me, I was so much more relaxed. My breathing was slow. I was focused. I started to really feel in the moment.
I felt like that was a pivotal moment for me. Slowing everything down to micro-movements and allowing everyone and everything around me to just fade away was liberating.
I then started to read the book How to Walk by Thich Nhat Hanh. So much of what he wrote resonated with me. Here is my favorite quote:
“When we walk, if we focus all our awareness on walking, we are stopping the thinking, storytelling, blaming, and judging that goes on in our heads and takes us away from the present moment. To stop the incessant thinking in the mind, it helps to focus on the body. When things aren’t going well, it’s good to stop the thinking in order to prevent the unpleasant destructive energies from continuing. Stopping does not mean repressing; it means, first of all, calming … When we notice the presence of anger, fear, and agitation in us, we don’t need to throw them away. We only have to breathe in and out consciously and take a mindful step. Allow yourself to sink deeply into the here and the now, because life is available only in the present moment. This alone is enough to calm the storm.”
After reading that book and focusing more on the present moment, I started to pay more attention to my movement. When I would start to walk, I would think of the purpose of why I was walking and where I was going. I would focus on how my feet were touching the ground and how my posture and body shifted as I took my foot off the ground to step forward. It was very soothing and relaxing.
Slowing down and paying attention to the action of walking, and not fast forwarding to thinking about what was waiting for me at the destination nor distracting myself with doing things like texting or talking like walking, filled me with a sense of calm. It also made me feel very grateful for the ability to move, something that I take for granted far too often.
I am glad that I have come to enjoy walking meditations. It is still not something that comes naturally for me, but I know that when I do slow down and just focus on walking, I enjoy feeling grounded, present, and calm.