Walking Meditation

Elizabeth Reninger Written by Elizabeth Reninger
SeniorLiving.Org Expert on Taoism | Meditation | Compassion

Sometimes we get swept up into conflict so quickly that it isn’t until after the storm has passed, that we actually catch our breath, and reflect back on the scene, wondering perhaps: “Now how on earth did that happen?!”

Walking Meditation

Oftentimes, however, there is a moment -- perhaps a long moment -- somewhere near the beginning of the tussle, when we understand quite clearly that we have a choice: to either escalate the conflict, get swept right into it; OR to stop, do an about-face of sorts, and just let it go. If we choose to maintain the peace, there are all kinds of supportive practices, to help us come fully back to ourselves, to reconnect with our human sanity, to chill out and to put a smile back on our face. Walking meditation is one of these practices, which I feel delighted now to share with you.

I first learned this practice from the Vietnamese Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh, in the summer of 1992, when I traveled to his monastery -- called Plum Village -- which is nestled among the vineyards and sunflower fields of south-central France. We practiced walking meditation quite a lot there, with the monks and nuns of Plum Village, and I loved it ...

When we’re first learning walking meditation, it’s best to practice in a relatively quiet, secluded place, if possible. Either indoors or outside is fine. The general idea is that we’re going to be walking very slowly, and coordinating our steps with the inhalations and exhalations of our breathing.

Begin by taking a very small step, with your left foot, as you inhale. Then, as you exhale, bring your right foot forward, into another very small step. Continue in this way, one step for each inhalation and each exhalation. As you place your foot on the earth, do it with great gentleness and presence, as though you were kissing the earth, with the sole of your foot. As you lift each foot, in turn, off of the earth - to begin a new step - imagine that a beautiful flower blooms, in the spot where your foot just was. In this way, as you walk, you leave in your wake a row of fragrant flowers ....

If you’d like, each time you place your left foot upon the ground, you can say internally, to yourself, “yes” -- affirming your commitment to living, breathing, walking in a beautiful and loving way. Each time you place your right foot upon the earth, you can say internally, to yourself, “thank you” -- expressing gratitude for the gift of your life, and all the wonders that this world contains.

“Yes, thank you ... Yes, thank you .... Yes, thank you ....” Continue the practice for ten minutes or longer, then notice how you feel. For more on the practice of walking meditation, please refer to Thich Nhat Hanh's book The Long Road Turns To Joy: A Guide To Walking Meditation.

Updated: Jul 13, 2011

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