Walking the Walk
A lot of people think meditation is all about sitting still in a quiet darkened room for long periods of time – and for sure, a lot of methods do indeed concentrate on that sitting aspect of meditation.
But in Vipassana meditation, with its focus on mindfulness rather than absorption, though for sure, sitting meditation is the primary theater for training the mind, the act of meditating is extended out to every aspect of living.
And nowhere moreso than the act of walking. In fact, when in retreat in the temple, walking meditation is given the same amount of time and energy as sitting meditation. Indeed, depending on their temperament, some people use walking meditation much more than sitting.
For myself, in retreat I found the synergy between walking meditation and sitting meditation was perfect – each adding to the other, and helping to develop mental qualities the other needed.
For example, walking meditation is extremely good for a faltering concentration. Because it’s so simple, and the object and our eyes are open and we’re moving, it is not so potentially disorienting as sitting meditation – the simplicity of the method rapidly clears and calms the mind and re-orients the attention to be more still.
So lets briefly look at a typical walking meditation.
It’s simple really. You choose a path of at least four meters in length, and, after standing at one end and contemplating the general sensual ‘shape’ of the body – that is, pulling the attention out of thinking it’s usually preoccupied with and purposely bringing it to bear on the sensations of the body.
Once our attention is fully focused on the body, we begin walking – one step, then another, very slowly. And we follow the motion of each foot with our attention – very closely – tracking every moment of each step, from the lifting of the foot to the placing of the foot, whereupon, we immediately switch the attention to the other foot, which is just beginning its step.
Each time the attention flits back to thinking, bring it back to the main object of the feet – the movement of the feet as each step is taken.
In this way, slowly cover the distance of the path – then stop to pay close attention to the movement of the feet as you turn around.
Then pause, paying attention to the standing body, then begin again.
In this way, where in sitting meditation we use the movement of the breath as a main object of contemplation, in walking meditation the man object is the movement of the feet. Around half an hour of this and you will feel focused and the mind will be more still and settled than it was.
Seems loopy doesn’t it … sort of lunatics in the asylum pacing up and down – but it’s actually an extremely effective meditation method, particularly for those who have difficulty with sitting posture, or find they are much too restless to sit for the long periods of time we need in sitting meditation.
For those of you who are not using the Practical Meditation Audio Course, I cover this method in more detail in the ‘Walking Meditation’ MP3 that’s included there, and explain it in more depth – but perhaps you can give it a go anyway and see how you go.
You might find that where sitting meditation has always defeated you, walking meditation might make more sense.
The other things is, it can be used anytime, anywhere you are walking from one place to another – walking in the park, to work – it’s just a switching of the attention from thinking, to the movement of the feet and legs as you walk.
Give it a try and see how you go.
‘BEING STILL – MEDITATION THAT MAKES SENSE’, Roger’s new book, is available now.
(The audiobook includes all the exercises, as well as ebooks of Being Still, to fit any device.)