I must admit that I’m not a fan of walking meditation — at least, not in the way it’s typically presented. I am however, a great fan of walking. And I like to meditate as I walk. I don’t shuffle around like a zombie staring at his feet though: I walk at a normal pace. I let my arms swing freely and I make sure I’m using my glutes, which are the most important muscles for hip flexion. In other words, I walk just as I would normally, but I add a degree of mindfulness to my movements, or to my environment.
There are many ways to do this. For example, you could:
- focus individually on each of your toes for 10 steps at a time
- allow your shoulders and arms to swing more freely
- slightly exaggerate the rotation of your hips or spine
- adopt a leisurely swagger or saunter
- pay close attention to your joints (ankles, knees, hips etc.) and imagine them being ‘oiled’ as you move
- imagine you have ‘puppet’ limbs, which hang loosely — by a thread — from the joints above
- notice the touch of the breeze across your face or skin
- appreciate trees, clouds, flowers, buildings, shapes or colours
I use all the ‘techniques’ above, but my favourite way to walk mindfully is based on an idea attributed to Vietnamese monk, Thich Nhat Hanh (pronounced Tick-Nought-Harn). He suggests that when walking you imagine kissing the ground with your feet.
This makes for an incredibly simple but effective walking meditation. It brings you into the present, highlights sensations in the feet (particularly the soles) and tends to smooth out your gait.
Thich Nhat Hanh suggests that you take this idea a step further – by thanking the earth for the support it lends you with each stride, and appreciating that the ground beneath you is the source of all that feeds and nourishes us.
Of course this is a lovely thing to do barefoot in the park or at the beach, but you can do it walking down the footpath in your boots or heels just as effectively. Give it a go next time you make a move — and don’t just imagine that you’re giving your dear old grandma a peck on the cheek; kiss the ground like you mean it!