"Walking meditation? How on earth can you meditate and walk?" you may wonder. "Is meditation not supposed to be about sitting very still and trying to get into some kind of trance or altered state of awareness?" Walking meditation is exactly meant to debunk some of these preconceptions. As walking is an activity most people engage in every day of their life, it is a great way to begin integrating meditation practice into you life. This will usually be in addition to sitting practice or other regular contemplative time out.
In this meditation technique you direct your conscious attention to the activity of walking itself. You will be upright and therefore are unlikely to fall asleep. This is an advantage! You also want to make sure that you are safe. So your mind will naturally look after your body during the walking. But while all this goes on quite automatically, you will consciously direct your attention to the walking itself.
What does this mean? For example, you could focus on the rhythmic alternation of your feet on the ground. Or on the movement of the legs, or the arms. Or you could become conscious of the overall activity, as a whole. Can you become conscious of your breathing while you walk? Is there a relationship between the walking and the breathing? What is walking? Who is doing the walking? These questions are intended only to help you direct your awareness. They are not meant as analytical questions that require an answer.
You can also experiment with different ways of walking. You may discover that slight changes to your walking can feel very different, for example the speed, in the size of the steps you take, how much you lift your legs and so on. It is probably best to decide in advance how you will walk and how long you will walk for. If you are able to walk in a quiet place, like a park or a private garden, then you could try a very slow walk. You can then focus on balance and on the very slow movements of your limbs.
If, on the other hand, you walk to work every day, you could maybe become more conscious at first of how you usually walk. Do you rush? Do you continually dodge other people? Then as you become more conscious of your walking habits, see if you can slow down a little bit. See if you can walk in such a way that blends in most easily with the traffic of other pedestrians. Become aware of your breathing and begin to walk with consciousness. Just focus on the walking. And like any meditations, every time you find yourself thinking about somethign else, gently bring your attention back to the walking.
For me personally, this meditation technique has become very challenging but also very helpful. My walking has become very conscious. This is because a few years back I had a spinal incident that left me partially paralysed below the waist. Also, the feeling below the waist, including touch and the feeling of where my legs are, has been much reduced. I had to completely relearn to walk. Thankfully I can now walk again but use two sticks to help me balance. During normal daily activity, half my mind is consciously engaged with the walking. By the end of the afternoon, I am usualy exhausted. However a walking meditation does not exhaust me to the same extent. In a walking meditation (with walking sticks) I am able to focus on my walking and become aware of the sensations I do still have. I have found this helpful both in becoming more familiar with my own walking and in accepting the limitations of my (dis)ability.
Try it and let me know how you get on!
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