It’s no secret that exercise is good for you, but did you know that walking can be an effective form of meditation? It might sound strange at first to think of walking as a way to calm your nerves and relieve stress, but when done correctly, it has the same benefits. Walking in nature can provide more mental clarity than other forms of exercise due to its calming effect on the brain. The absence of motorized distractions also helps people focus better while they walk. The best part about this type of meditation is that you don’t even need any special equipment or clothes! Just wear whatever is most comfortable.
Walking meditation, or mindful walking, is all about learning to be in the present moment. Pay attention to your surroundings and your body, and your walking meditation will be a resounding success.
If you struggle with seated meditation practice or other meditations that require you to remain still, then a walk with mindfulness meditation may be for you. You'll be able to concentrate on physical sensations while also getting a little bit of exercise and keeping your body engaged. The meditative state you can reach with a walk is just as great as with sitting meditation. Let's get started!
Benefits of Walking Meditation
Like most meditation, walking meditation comes with many benefits for the devoted practitioner. Perhaps most importantly, walking meditation can help reduce the stress that you feel in your day-to-day life. It can reduce or eliminate anxiety and depression, and it can even improve your focus and concentration. Finally, walking meditation cultivates a sense of peace and calmness, improving your mental and physical environment.
For some of us, walking meditation may be the only type of meditation that we can practice in everyday life. Being able to simply notice our bodily sensations and pay attention to when our mind wanders is a great skill to have, and mindful walking can help get us there.
How To Practice Walking Meditation
A walking meditation session is easy to start. Put on your walking shoes, dress appropriately for the weather, and head to a safe place to walk. That could be right outside your door, or maybe at a local park.
Step 1: Walk Freely.
Walking meditation is not necessarily about exercise, although it may do things like improving your sleep quality and blood pressure. Therefore, walk at a pace that feels comfortable to you. Don't feel obligated to walk in a straight line, and definitely don't set distance or pace goals for yourself. Even though you're using your body, your focus is on calming the mind.
Step 2: Watch Your Thoughts
Experienced meditation practitioners know exactly what this means, but it probably sounds weird if you're new to meditation. Here's a simple explanation:
Your brain is really, really good at generating thoughts. It's always chattering. Meditation is about riding the wave of chatter without getting sucked up into it. Mindfulness practice is about paying attention to your physical experience. Your mind will chatter on and on about your upcoming day, but you? Your consciousness needs to focus on things like where your body is, how it feels. Are your feet touching the ground? How is your breath? Does your knee hurt? Are you cold?
Simply acknowledge the thoughts that are going through your head and dismiss them as they go. Instead, focus on the placement of your one foot as it falls down to the ground, or on your muscles as they push you forward.
Step 3: Practice
The best way to improve at walking meditation is to just practice. Keep a daily or weekly walking practice. To change it up some, consider using a guided walking meditation podcast or app. Practicing mindfulness is more about the practice than it is about achieving some sense of nirvana. Plus, walking meditation is a perfect complement to a larger self-care routine.
Is there a difference between Walking Meditation and Prayer Walks?
The difference between walking meditation and prayer walks is really just your spiritual view. You'll still meditate, concentrate on your breathing, and notice your body and feet as they move on the ground.
Prayer walks, obviously, incorporate prayer into the present moment. This type of meditation practice is less about physical sensations and more about connecting with the divine. You may walk back and forth, or bring body awareness during only part of the exercise. Then, you may stay still, count your breath, and lose your surroundings as you pray. Spend a few minutes considering the difference between the two – it's really what you make of the activity that counts.
How To Practice Walking Meditation When You Can't Walk
Walking meditation is a great exercise, but sometimes, walking is different or impossible. People have different levels of ability throughout their lives. If you're temporarily or permanently disabled, you can still take a walk, roll, or do another type of movement through your environment.
If you're in a wheelchair, you can still experience nature. You may just need someone to help you navigate trails. If you're on crutches, you might consider borrowing a wheelchair so that you can avoid using your injured legs while trying to meditate.
The goal with walking meditation is just to be aware of your body in physical space and to free up yourself to move as you see fit. No matter how you move, you will find that mindfulness will help you notice your body and calm your mind. Make it an everyday activity and you'll find that the benefits will keep coming.