For some of us, the thought of sitting still and meditating is intimidating. When we lead such busy lives and we're used to being on the go all the time, it can feel alien to sit still without the TV or a device in front of us. If that sounds familiar but you want to find a way to start meditating, then you might well find the practice of walking meditation a good introduction to mindfulness. There are different ways to do it, and you can do it anywhere. You don't need to walk barefoot on a path of rose petals or wear a robe! Just a regular pair of flat shoes and any surface will do. Here are three techniques to try if you want to meditate without fear of fidgeting.
1. Small-Space Walking Meditation
You don't need a huge amount of space to practice walking meditation. This guide from Greater Good in Action, adapted from mindfulness expert Jon Kabat-Zinn, only requires you to walk for 10-15 paces, either on a peaceful lane or even inside. You pause and breathe after each set of steps, and then turn and walk back in the other direction. It should feel natural, but take slow, small paces. With each step, you pay close attention to the series of actions: lifting the foot; moving it forwards; placing it on the floor, heel first; and shifting the weight of your body onto the forward leg as you lift your back heel. This set of motions is repeated with the other foot, back to the first foot, and so on.
2. Posture-Focused Walking Meditation
If you like to be instructed on exactly how to hold your posture when meditating, then the detailed advice from Mindful Magazine gives plenty of guidance. First off, stand up straight (but not stiff) with an upright back. Distribute your weight evenly through your feet. To stop your arms swinging and distracting you, curl your left thumb in, and wrap your fingers and right hand around it, with your right thumb resting in the dent between that left thumb and forefinger. Hold your hands just above your belly button. Maintain your focus by dropping your gaze slightly. When you swing each foot forward, pay attention to the sensation of your heel, ball of the foot, and then toes touching the ground. Walk slightly slower than normal, at a steady pace, and when your mind wanders, bring your attention back to your feet touching the ground.
3. Walking and Talking
If you want another aspect to your walking meditation, you can bring in "gatha" too. Gatha are short verses that bring our mind and body together and help us practice mindfulness in daily activities. Europe's largest Buddhist monastery, Plum Village, suggests the following gatha to use while walking, which involves taking two or three steps for each in-breath and each out-breath:
- Breathing in "I have arrived"; breathing out "I am home."
- Breathing in "In the here"; breathing out "In the now."
- Breathing in "I am solid"; breathing out "I am free."
- Breathing in "In the ultimate"; breathing out "I dwell."
You can say these phrases in your head rather than out loud! I have found Plum Village's books and CDs a fantastic guide to meditation for me and my young daughter, who was introduced to their gatha and songs during her time at a Buddhist-inspired school. I also learned some tips on how to meditate when your mind wanders from here and the Bodhisattva Buddhist Centre.