Walking Meditation – Stage 1 – Staying in the Present

Doing walking meditation outside is very powerful, because you experience the beauty of nature, the world, and what it means to be alive.  Here are some excerpts from my forthcoming book where I talk about one way to practice it!

   WALKING MEDITATION is both a powerful practice in its own right and an indispensable complement to sitting practice. Too often it’s not taken seriously enough; we imagine a meditator to be someone who only sits cross-legged with eyes closed. But walking meditation is just as effective as sitting for developing stable attention and powerful mindfulness. It’s even more effective for some things. The best way to make rapid progress is to combine the two.

The practices of walking and sitting meditation are essentially the same: stabilize your attention while sustaining or even increasing peripheral awareness. The only real difference is where you focus your attention. Here, you fix it on the sensations in the soles of your feet, rather than on the breath at the nose. Alternatively, you can use the sensations in the muscles, joints, and tendons of your legs as the meditation object…

The best location for walking meditation practice is outdoors. An open space where you won’t be interrupted, such as a back yard, gardens, or park is perfect. A place with some sort of natural beauty is ideal, but not essential, since aesthetic enjoyment isn’t the main point….  Of course, you can also walk indoors….

Stage One: Staying in the Present

To begin with, as in Step One of the transition, it’s all about exploring the present moment. You allow your attention to move freely while keeping your awareness open as you walk. The only restriction is to stay fully in the present, the here and now. This means your attention can move from your feet to anything happening in the moment that you find interesting. However, these must always be intentional movements of attention! If you are outside, there will be sounds, interesting and attractive visual objects, and odors. Intentionally allow the mind to observe and explore them. Feel the warmth of sunlight, the coolness of shade, and the breeze touching your face. Investigate and engage fully with these things, taking it all in. Whenever an object of attention goes away or ceases to be interesting, return to the sensations in your feet.

Again, always stay in the present. Explore and fully experience your surroundings with both attention and awareness, but don’t get lost in thinking, which takes you away from the present. Whenever you realize thinking has carried you away, bring your attention back to the sensations in your feet or legs to keep those thoughts at bay. As the novelty of slow walking wears off, thoughts become more frequent, and you’ll need to anchor attention to your feet more often. This is completely normal. You’ll eventually be keeping the focus of your attention more or less continuously on the sensations of walking.

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