For many in the modern world, carving out time for both traditional seated meditation and exercise has become close to impossible. I’ve also known many people who are, by nature, movers. For them, sitting still to meditate — or do anything else for that matter — just isn’t going to happen, no matter how much they may yearn for the benefit of a meditator’s focused, peaceful mind.
For both types of people, walking meditation can be extraordinarily effective.
Meditating while walking has a long, noble history in ancient spiritual disciplines. One example is the Zen Buddhism practice of kinhin, which is often performed in groups, single file, to the sound of a clapper or bell. Other spiritual traditions have different forms of contemplative walking, but all share a similar purpose: to focus on synchronized breathing and stride in order to develop mindfulness of the present moment.
Even if you are an experienced seated meditator, you may find value in enlarging your repertoire with a walking practice. You may discover that uniting three rhythms — stepping, breathing and mental counting — is the most effective way to calm and redirect a chattering mind and pull your focus from obsessing on there and then to a new appreciation of here and now.
If you want to give breathwalking a try, here’s a method that my friend and colleague, Jim Nicolai, M.D., adapted from a Kundalini yoga technique explained in the book Breathwalk by Yogi Bhajan, Ph.D., and Gurchan Singh Khalsa:
Remember that breathwalking — as with any meditation technique — should not be pursued with a grim determination to “get it right.” The point is to cultivate openness, relaxation and awareness, which can include awareness of your undisciplined, wandering mind. Be patient and gentle with yourself as you persist in the practice, and you will soon enjoy the twin blessings of a more peaceful mind and a more fit physique. Happy breathwalking!
Orthaheel and Weil Integrative Footwear are calling for participants! On April 3, 2013, coinciding with National Walking Day, Weilbeing.com and Orthaheel will kick off the second annual Walkabout, a 28-Day Quest For Good Health. Beginners are encouraged to commit to walking just 30 minutes a day to attain physical and emotional health and well-being. The nationwide Walkabout campaign is open to the public — contributors will serve as champions of putting one foot in front of the other, and will invite a public spotlight on walking for physical and emotional health. Walkabout participants will receive daily healthy living tips and have the opportunity to engage in an online community of walkers encouraging all Americans to get out and walk. Andrew Weil, M.D., donates all of his after-tax profits from royalties from the sale of Dr. Weil Integrative Footwear directly to the Weil Foundation.
For more by Dr. Andrew Weil, click here.
For more on meditation, click here.
Video via Dr. Andrew Weil: Breathwalking: A Meditative Exercise.