Meditative walking has origins in Buddhism and is also known as mindful or meditative walking. This form of meditation offers different health benefits to the human body and mind as it could be beneficial in reducing stress, thinking straight, and easing the mind.
It may also help to normalize your perception of the world and awareness of your environment and everything around you.
What is walking meditation?
Constant, regular, and continuous meditation is the basic foundation for mind and body wellness, It’s an approach to life that is consciousness-based.
Daily meditation practice can improve one’s lifestyle, and it cuts across all aspects of life, from the quality of sleep and relationship skills to enhanced concentration, reduced stress, and a deeper connection to the mind and spirit.
Daily meditation, however, doesn’t necessarily have to be sitting passively (sitting meditation). Walking meditation is a practice that requires you to be consciously and constantly aware of your body and the environment while you move or take a walk.
It’s a simple, comfortable way of meditation that is preferable for anyone who fancies a more active form of meditation.
Walking meditation also brings nature closer to you, and it takes you closer to nature. Walking meditation can be done in many forms, depending on how you want it and the circumstances with which you find doing it.
Often, walking meditation is done between long periods of sitting meditation; that is, it can be done at one or more intervals while doing sitting meditation. The combination of walking and sitting meditation is said to be a great exercise that has brought about a lot of positive results over time.
Usually, during walking meditation, you either walk back and forth in a straight line, a circle, or in a labyrinth. Walking meditation can be done over a long distance or a short distance. The pace can either be slow or fast, depending on the specific technique.
When done slowly, several steady steps are taken to go with each breath. And when done faster, it could be done even almost to the point of jogging.
Some practitioners walk clockwise or anticlockwise around a room or a field while holding their hands with one hand closed in a fist while they grasp or cover the fist using the other hand during walking meditation.
This is a powerful way to train the mind to connect with the body to work together, and it can be integrated into daily life.
Sitting meditation, on the other hand, is extremely valuable as well, and it’s a step toward knowing how to observe your thoughts. Walking meditation helps to bridge the gap between the rarified air from sitting meditation; they work together and help to bring the mindful sensation into real-world and human activities.
Health Benefits of Walking Meditation
During mindful walking or walking meditation, We are conscious of air that’s flowing in and out of our lungs, the earth beneath our feet, and we are mindful of smells, sounds, sights, and everything around us because all of our senses are active in the exercise.
This practice helps us to stay and feel more connected to our environment, which in turn, helps us cultivate situational awareness, where all of our attention is drawn to our surroundings instead of just mindlessly walking from place to place.
Below are some of the health benefits of meditative walking
1. Enhances Blood Circulation
Mindful walking meditation helps in blood circulation, especially if you’ve been meditating while sitting for a while or if you’re feeling a bit tired and stressed. Walking meditation can be of great help to people who often sit for long periods.
It helps to get the blood flowing and circulating to every part of the body, especially to the legs.
2. Reduces Stress and Improves Sleep Quality
Studies have shown that taking a walk in nature, like a place where you have trees and other natural resources may help enhance your overall well-being as it makes you feel good and balanced
3. Helps Eradicates the Feeling of Depression
As you age or grow older, it is essential that you stay active. While regular workout helps enhance your fitness level, it also improves your mood. Both of which are prone to decline as you get older.
A small study conducted in 2014 reported that older people who practiced Buddhist walking meditations three times a week for 12 weeks experienced fewer symptoms of depression.
4. Helps Food Digestion
Taking a walk after a meal can help boost digestion, especially when you’re full or when you overfeed and start feeling heavy.
5. Boost and stimulates creativity
Practicing meditative walking may help the brain to function properly as it normalizes blood circulation. It enables you to think straight and eases your mind while raising your level of awareness, and this brings more focus and clarity to your thought pattern, which will, in turn, stimulate creativity.
You can make mindful walking a part of your daily routine to get the best out of every day.
The Basics of Walking Meditation
Practitioners of walking meditation are taught to focus and be sensitive to every sensation that is associated with the walking experience and to make sure not to let their minds to drift (in a bid to stop practitioners from being obsessed about the past, worrying about the future or thinking far off).
The goal is to focus on the present timeless moment and settle the mind as the practitioner watches and feels the sensation of each foot as they touch the ground, they feel the movement of their limbs and muscles as they walk. They feel the sensation of each breath as they inhale and exhale; the mind and body are relaxed.
In the first stages, the mind will most likely stray from the present moments from time to time as you take a walk. When this happens, the practitioner is encouraged to carry on and then gently bring back their awareness to the present moment and to the feeling of just walking in the ‘here’ and ‘now.’
As time goes on, distractions will be reduced, and attention will be increased, the practitioner will be fully engaged and present. In this tranquil state, the thoughts, impermanence, and reality of life are naturally observed, but not identified with. At this stage, mindfulness is brought into the Real World
Once the practitioner gets used to this peaceful, non-attached state of mind while walking in a tranquil, serene garden or setting, they will be able to carry it forward into real-world situations: like while walking from and to their cars or homes, while walking to a business meeting, or while taking a stroll.
Below are a few tips for getting started.
Choosing a Place or location
There may be a feeling of awkwardness at the beginning, so you might want to consider doing mindful walking first in your backyard.
If you are walking outside your residence, then you should find a secluded and serene place where you won’t be getting any distractions or disturbances.
It is more ideal that the walking path is slightly enclosed, so there is less or no distraction from the scenery, then the mind can easily go inwards. Mindful walking should not be done in densely populated walking areas. It’s essential that you practice mindful walking in an environment where you feel safe.
Time Length and Limit
For beginners, it is ideal that you practice for a minimum of 15 minutes. As you get deeper into the practice, you can extend the time length.
It is better to start slow. The speed ought to be steady and even. If you have problems trying to focus, then walk very slowly, until you can finally stay in the present moment as you take each step.
Before the start of any mindful walk session, spend a few minutes just standing there, take a few deep breaths, and anchor your attention from your body.
Standing with both feet wide apart and your weight balanced evenly on both feet. Take your time to feel the stability of the earth. Inhale deeply and then exhale. With your eyes closed, do a scan of your whole body.
Take note of all the sensations, feelings, or thoughts and take time to explore them fully. Focus your awareness on your body, and take note of how your body feels at this very moment.
At any point where your mind starts to drift away, and you get engaged with thoughts of any kind, try to get your attention back to your breathing and walking. Make sure you’re paying attention to your breath and your steps.
Discipline yourself and make sure your mind is made up to do this. Make it a constant habit until it becomes a lifestyle. You’re all out for this, and you’re not going to give up on the process.