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Follow a path to contentment with mindful walking meditation

By Gay Falkowski
Mindful walking meditation is a type of meditation that uses the experience of walking as the focus. By paying close attention to your movements and your inner state, along with all the sounds and sensations of the environment, you become “in the moment.”

Thoughts are centered in the present, not the past or future. Some people discover they are more easily aware of their bodies while doing walking meditation, compared to sitting forms of meditation. Additionally, once you become comfortable with the practice, walking meditation doesn’t require a lot of preplanning. Just do it whenever you have to walk somewhere. If you prefer scheduling, incorporate a meditation walk into your daily routine.

The following steps describe an adaptation of a traditional Buddhist walking meditation, incorporating elements of the modern mindfulness movement.

1. For your first session, find an outdoor space away from traffic where you can walk for about 20 minutes. Start by just standing in one spot. Become aware of your weight being transferred through your feet into the earth. Try and feel the subtle movements your body is making to keep you balanced and upright.

2. Begin walking as you normally do, but at a fairly slow pace. From this moment on, you’ll be moving your focus progressively upwards throughout your body, relaxing each part of your body as you go.

3. Feel your soles, and the impact as the heel first makes contact with the ground, rolls forward onto the ball, then lifts and travels through the air. Feel the contact between your toes, the inside of your shoes, and the fabric of your socks. 

4. As you walk, move your attention to your ankles, then shins, calves, knees, thighs, pelvis, hips, belly, chest, shoulders, arms, spine, neck, face, and head. Let your attention linger for a few moments at each part of your body.
5. To heighten awareness, experiment with different movements. For example, pick up the pace and experience extra exertion in your leg muscles. Slow down and notice how they relax. Keep walking but tilt your head downward a bit, and then upward a bit. Does your mood shift along with your head movement?

6. Keep looking ahead. For safety, watch where you’re going but don’t stare at anything. Don’t allow yourself to be caught up in events happening around you. 

7. Notice what feels pleasant inside or outside of your body. Is the temperature on your skin too hot or too cold? Do you enjoy the feeling of the wind in your hair? Or is the sun too bright in your eyes? Just notice these feelings and let them drift by. Don’t cling to them.

8. Notice your emotional states. Are you anxious? Are you content? Are you sad? Are you very happy to be outside? Just notice your present emotions but don’t dwell on them. Don’t judge them. 

9. Notice how your brain is working. Is your thinking sharp or does it feel dull? Is your mind busy, or calm? Are you thinking about things other than walking? If so, just observe those thoughts and let them pass.

10. See if you can find a point of balance where you’re equally aware of the inner and the outer walking experience. You may likely discover that your mind is most calm and content when you reach this point of balance.

11. Finally, come to a natural halt. As you did in the beginning, just experience yourself standing. Notice what it’s like to no longer be in motion. Recognize the subtle movements your body is again making to keep you upright and in one place. Feel the weight traveling down through your soles into the earth. Stand until you choose to end the session.