Walking meditation can take many forms. It may entail a stroll in the woods with no particular focal point, or you might contemplate an important issue in your life as your body guides you along a familiar path. Below, I have provided instruction on a particular form of walking meditation that is similar to the popular mindfulness meditation of watching your breath, but in this case, you are focused on bodily sensations that arise in the process of walking.
A simple motivation for doing walking meditation is that it allows you to move your body while gaining the benefits of mindfulness meditation. That benefit alone is worthy of giving it a try. It’s great for short breaks between long sessions of sitting (meditating or Zooming).
There can be deeper motivations associated with this practice. Angeles Arrien connects walking meditation with the Eastern facet of our psyche –home to our power of vision and being true to ourselves. It is here that we recognize (see) and cultivate our creative purpose and life dream. When underdeveloped, this aspect manifests as denial of our possession of gifts for the world and distracts us from giving these gifts through self-indulgence in drawing attention to ourselves for the purpose of validation (ego, pride, vanity). It is this perspective that inspired the title of this post, walking in the light, implying the light that comes from firing up our internal vision.
Regardless of the motivation, it is a soothing activity that is best done out of doors but certainly can be done inside as well. I do not have a recording to guide you through this practice as it is important to allow yourself to proceed at the pace that feels right and for the length of time as well.
Begin by finding a level and smooth spot where you can take ten to twelve casual steps straight ahead. You won’t want to be counting your steps after you begin so be sure to have some kind of marker at each end indicating where to pause and turn around (there may be a plant or stone or empty patch of grass already there, or you can place a branch or rock at each end).
Stand at one end of your path with your feet about hip width apart, let your arms relax at your side, your knees bend just a little, and take a few deep breaths to bring your awareness into the present moment, and to let go of all the distractions of memories from the past or fantasies about the future.
You are going to spend the next ten to twenty minutes pacing back and forth along the path. Your first round, there and back, will be at a normal walking pace, whatever speed feels natural and smooth. While walking, keep your gaze down towards your feet and a short distance in front of them. To help keep your focus in the present, draw on curiosity about the terrain you are crossing and the sensations in your body as you are walking. Do several rounds at this normal pace until you begin to feel that you are relaxing into the meditation.
Each time you reach the end of the path, slowly and mindfully pivot to turn around, pause for a breath, and then begin walking back to the other end. After a few rounds, two or three, when you feel ready, and this is an important aspect of the meditation – paying attention and honoring your intuition, slow your pace. Just slow it down enough to notice you are moving more slowly. Walk at this slower pace for a few rounds, and then again, when it feels right, slow down some more. Remember to let go of thoughts about the past or future, and especially self-conscious or judgmental thoughts about yourself in the present moment. Focus on curiosity about the sensations you are receiving through your eyes and bodily sensations as your feet rise and fall with each step.
As your pace becomes slower, the sensations of walking become more pronounced. You can begin to feel when your leg muscles engage in order to move, you can feel that your feet don’t leave uniformly from the ground but that you roll from heel to toe. Your core has to engage to keep your torso upright and balanced.
Each round will take longer as you slow down, if you feel like only doing one round and then slowing, follow your intuition.
At some point, you will slow down far enough that it requires a lot of focus to balance. This is a sign that you are about to finish. You don’t want too much attention going to control the movement. When you reach this point, just take a few very slow and mindful steps paying attention to every sensation that arises. Then, come to a halt in the same posture as you began. Take a few deep breaths.
Notice if you are feeling both lighter and more centered. This is a good time to open up to questions related to your vision, what you want to give to the world, and how you might be holding yourself back or distracting yourself from pursuing what you know deep down is the mission for your life.