Sitting and following your breath isn’t the only way to meditate. A walking meditation can be a great way to check in with your mind and body, while getting some exercise. It allows you to use different sensations as the objects of your meditation, and it's a perfect way to practice being more mindful in your day-to-day life.
You simply focus on the sensations of walking - the feelings in your feet and legs and also the sights, smells and sounds around you. You can purposefully move your attention from one sense to another, or you can choose to maintain an open awareness. Just notice how your attention is drawn from one thing to another.
Meditation is all about being in the present moment. Objects of focus such as the sensations of walking are simply anchors to the present moment. When you notice that your mind has wandered (as it inevitably will), you just bring your attention back to the object.
My first experience of walking meditation
The first time I did a walking meditation, I was shocked by the effect that it had on my perception of the world around me. I was on my regular commute to work along a busy London street. It was a route that I had walked a hundred times before, but on that day, during my walking meditation, it seemed to change. The path that I was walking along actually seemed bigger. It also seemed more colorful and more lively.
This apparent change in my surroundings was down to paying more attention and taking in more of what was around me. It was because I was more present. At the time, it was surprising to me because it’s not something that you can experience while meditating at home with your eyes closed.
Indoor slow movement walking meditation
I was introduced to another form of walking meditation by a Buddhist monk at Wat Buddhapadipa temple in Wimbledon. I attended the temple one afternoon for a free meditation class. There were only four of us in the small group and I think we were all slightly surprised to be shown how to do a slow moving walking meditation, instead of traditional sitting down meditation.
Wat Buddhapadipa - A taste of Thailand in London
Slow movement walking meditation allows you to examine the sensations of walking more closely by experimenting with very slow movement, which helps you to become more mindful of your own body.
All you need is 1 to 2 metres of clear space. You simply start walking, but at an extremely slow pace and pay very close attention to every sensation that appears. When you get to the end of your walking space, just turn around and keep going.
Normally you would never pay such close attention to every tiny movement, so this is a really interesting way to practice being mindful.
The great thing about walking meditation is that you can fit it into your regular routine - why don’t you give it a try next time you're out and about?