It’s not the most exciting part of our day, is it? Getting from point A to point B. It’s the part where we get lost in thought and start to wonder in the dreamland. And why wouldn’t our minds be in a state like that? We know every turn, stop, and building on the way and let our autopilot mode take over.
I used to be like that myself. I couldn’t go out for a walk without putting on the headphones so that I could listen to music or an audiobook. It felt as if I couldn’t be alone with my thoughts. I always needed something to shut out the “noise” of constant thinking and worrying about all the things.
But here’s what I discovered after meditating on a regular basis: this boring route we take every day can turn into a simple and powerful walking meditation practice. It also saves us time if we have a busy schedule. So even if we feel rushed in the morning and skip sitting meditation, we have the opportunity to make up for it. We can practice walking meditation wherever we go: office, supermarket, coffee shop, restaurant. Every step becomes an opportunity to be mindful.
Every path, every street in the world is your walking meditation path. — Thich Nhat Hanh
How to Practice Walking Meditation
Just like in breathing mediation we’ll need a point of concentration to keep us grounded in the present moment. For this purpose, we can use the sensation produced by the soles of our feet touching the ground. We should come back to it whenever we notice our minds have wandered off.
But we don’t have to exclude everything else. On the contrary, we need to pay attention to our surroundings by following the steps below. We also need to remember to walk naturally, but at a slightly slower pace than usual.
Walk as if you are kissing the Earth with your feet. — Thich Nhat Hanh
As you walk, begin by directing your attention into the body.
Notice the way you move, how you put one foot in front of the other, how your hands swing at your side. Feel the weight of your body as you walk.
Are there any areas of tension or discomfort?
Pay attention to the pace and rhythm just like you do with your breath during sitting meditation.
Observe the way you look around or prefer to keep your head down as you walk. Can you explain why do one or the other? These habitual patterns can reveal your state of mind.
Smile, breathe and go slowly. — Thich Nhat Hanh
Now make a conscious effort to notice surrounding objects.
Look in intense awareness at everything around you and try to perceive it with fresh eyes.
You’ve got so accustomed to your route that all you see is mental labels devoid of life and depth.
For a few minutes, try to drop the labels and imagine you see the world for the first time.
When you make this simple shift, you may notice that people and things around you seem different.
You’ll start to notice subtle nuances never seen before, and your route will become fresh and new.
For things to reveal themselves to us, we need to be ready to abandon our views about them. — Thich Nhat Hanh
Then turn your attention to the sounds around you. Listen to people talking, cars passing by or the sound of your feet touching the ground.
Likewise, pay attention to smells. It could be an aroma of ground up beans from a nearby coffee shop, the sweet scent of flowers, or the smell of freshly baked bread. Notice how these smells make you feel.
Do any of these experiences evoke certain memories from your past or hopes for a distant future?
As always, use this part to notice your habitual thought patterns and reactions.
Use your senses fully and let the alert stillness within you be the perceiver, rather than your mind. — Eckhart Tolle
The next step is to turn your attention to any physical sensations and how they make you feel.
Notice a fresh breeze sweeping over you as you walk down the street and the warm sunshine on your skin.
Pay attention to the way you walk, how your feet touch the ground, and the rhythm of your steps.
Are you moving fast or strolling while enjoying everything around you?
When you notice any pleasant or unpleasant physical sensations, don’t think about them. Just acknowledge them and let them be.
The mind can go in a thousand directions, but on this beautiful path, I walk in peace. With each step, the wind blows. With each step, a flower blooms. — Thich Nhat Hanh
Making Walking Meditation a Natural Part of Our Routine
At some point, we’ve lost the ability to be aware while taking familiar paths of everyday life. The time spent going from one place to another is seen as meaningless and unproductive. It’s something we have to do. We always feel the need to be somewhere else, get to the destination quicker no matter what.
Why not stop this unhealthy tendency and practice walking meditation whenever we can? We should make a conscious choice to take off our headphones for 10 minutes and practice the steps described above. This practice will complement our daily sitting meditation and help us make faster progress towards a more mindful and stress-free life. As a supplement, I made a free worksheet available through the link below.