So often these days when I go for a walk my focus is on exercise. I have my music to pump me up and keep my step rate high and I get going! But a walk does not always need to be for exercise. While it is a great stress relief tool to exercise, taking a walk can also be a meditative practice to help heal the mind.
A walking meditation can be used to shift your mood or experience. In general, I do not enjoy doing waking meditations on treadmills. This is primarily because the changing scenery allows the mind to be more creative and shift to new possibilities as the scenery changes. It is easier to leave things behind you when you are physically moving on.
There are different ways you can approach a walking meditation. When I am using a walking meditation to process thoughts, concerns, or quandaries that are on my mind I have a tendency to walk at a medium speed and allow my mind to wander while my body is focused on something else that I do not need to focus on, walking. I will make sure that I am walking on a route or trail that I am familiar with so I can let my mind wander and not focus on my surroundings.
A more tradition walking meditation can be done much slower. I enjoy doing these in a more enclosed environment such as in a labyrinth, a path that has one way in and one way out, unlike a maze. This allows you a target and a path so you can focus more on your body, how you are moving, and focus your mind on your body. Many sitting meditations focus on the breathing while this kind of walking meditation can focus more on the body and it’s movement patterns.
When you find a space that you can enjoy the quiet and concentrate take your first step. If you are barefoot, feel your whole foot on the ground. Start with your heel and roll through your foot till it is completely on the earth. Allow your body to shift your weight from your back foot to your front foot until you are sturdy. Lift your back foot off the ground, beginning with your heel and rolling through your foot. Carry your foot to be assent to your standing foot and pass it to the front to begin a new step.
When slowly walking in this fashion keep your awareness on your body until you have become practiced with days or even weeks of this practice. As you practice this technique, keep these other points in mind:
- Where is your center of balance at each point through your step?
- Are your transitions between your feet smooth and even?
- Are your hips staying sturdy? Check if they are lifting up by holding your hand on your feet.
- How is your posture? Are you breathing deeply and looking up strongly?
- Is there tension in your body? Your knees? Can you release this tension?
Have you done a practice like this before? Let us know about your experience and what other walking meditation techniques you use.
Jillian Carnrick, founder and manager of The Dancing Herbalist, has a Masters of Science Degree in Herbal Medicine, practices as a nutritionist, and is a Certified Personal Trainer and Exercise Is Medicine Professional through the American College of Sports Medicine. The Dancing Herbalist posts on this blog every Thursday. For more of our posts, join us on Patreon. Jillian also presents regular live classes in The Dancing Herbalist’s home herbalist courses online. For more learning opportunities or to work one-on-one with Jillian with her wellness and herbal consultations visit The Dancing Herbalist.com.