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Zen and the Art of Walking

In many religious traditions, walking is a spiritual practice. The reason traditions like Zen use walking as a form of spiritual practice, is that it can form a bridge between meditation and everyday life. Mindful walking is meditation in action. Like anything else, walking can be done either mindlessly or mindfully. It’s so easy to be mindless and drift away on thoughts and fantasies whilst living on autopilot.

Mindful walking can teach us to stay in the moment and taste our life as it unfolds.

We don’t need to be in retreat to practise mindful walking. Further down I’ll give some tips on how to transform a stroll into active meditation.

Here are some other benefits of mindful walking:

Walking keep us in touch with our body.

Are you in touch with your body? If you’re a very physical person, you won’t know that I’m talking about. But if you’re someone who lives mostly through their mind then maybe you are not in close touch with your body. Let me ask you some questions. Are you overweight? Is your body flabby? If the answer is ‘yes’, then you are not truly in touch with your body.

Walking helps us wake up to our body.

When we are in good communication with our body, we become sensitive to it’s needs, whether that’s good, restrained nutrition or regular exercise.

Walking quietens the agitated mind.

Some people have such an active mind that sitting still in meditation seems like torture to them. This is where walking as spiritual practice can help. When we walk mindfully, the mind comes to rest naturally and easily.

Walking helps to integrate what seems to difficult to accept.

I think there are times in life when it’s difficult to focus and be still. For example, there are times of crisis when we feel overwhelmed and agitated. Mindful walking is a great antidote to agitation and despair.

Walking lifts your spirits.

Many people suffer from low spirits or depression in its many forms. In my experience, meditation can sometimes lead to problems if someone is deeply depressed. The reason for this is that a depressed person is focussed within and withdraws from the world. Meditation – especially if done with closed eyes – can sometimes make this worse.

That’s why I recommend walking meditation if you feel down. A brisk mindful walk lifts one’s spirits.

Walking fosters good health.

I think of good health as well-being that includes the body, mind, and spirit. Walking is one of the best – and free – medicines!

We breathe more deeply when we walk

Heart and lungs are exercised

Limbs are strengthened

The mind comes to rest.

The spirit lifts and the soul is nourished.

Here are some tips on how to use walking as meditation

Walk at a medium pace

Keep you head up and look around

Focus on sights, body sensations, and sounds

Touch fore-finger and thumb together to remind you to be mindful

Coordinate breath and steps

Let the earth carry you

The walk doesn’t have to be long. Start with just 10 minutes. If you do that every day, you will notice a difference in your overall feeling of well-being.