On the second day of our stress management mindfulness meditation workshops, we introduce participants to walking meditation. We do a two-part walk. During the first half of the walk, we walk through the surrounding vineyards, woods, meadows and sunflower fields, in the company of one or more of our horses. During the second part of the walk, at the farm, each participant practices mindful walking meditation individually, as described below, either by walking our meditation labyrinth or the meditation stations on the island in the middle of the lake. They can also choose to walk around the pond surrounded by medicinal herbs or around the lake.
The rhythm of walking generates a kind of rhythm of thinking, and the passage through a landscape echoes or stimulates the passage through a series of thoughts. The creates an odd consonance between internal and external passage, one that suggests that the mind is also a landscape of sorts and that walking is one way to traverse it. A new thought often seems like a feature of the landscape that was there all along, as though thinking were travelling rather than making.
Walking meditation is an excellent way of incorporating meditation into our daily life.
We start with a very simple introduction to walking mindfully:
Once you have taken the basic principles of walking mindfully on board, you can move onto the more structured practice of walking meditation. This video is useful because you can listen to it while you are walking:
“In summary, the walking process involves four stages: lifting, raising, shifting, and dropping. Your inhalation is coordinated with the lifting movement of the heel of your foot and your exhalation with keeping your foot lifted, while your toes are still touching the ground. Your inhalation is coordinated with the raising and shifting movements and your exhalation with the dropping of your foot. While you are coordinating your breath with your physical movements, remember to pay bare attention to what is taking place; avoid making judgements, decisions, or comments.
Observe the impermanent nature of your walking experience: the intention that precedes each movement, the movement itself, and every breath which rises and falls from moment-to-moment. When your mind shifts to another object of awareness, focus on seeing that it is also impermanent. Then, gently but firmly, place your attention back on your walking movements, coordinating them with your breath.”
Matthew Flickstein, Journey to the Center: A Meditation Workbook.
In this video, Mindah demonstrates physically exactly how to do a walking meditation:
According to Jon Kabat-Zinn Director of the Stress Reduction Clinic at the University of Massachusetts Medical Center, “This brings your attention to the actual experience of walking as you are doing it, focusing on the sensations in your feet and legs, feeling your whole body moving, ” Dr. Kabat-Zinn explains. “You can also integrate awareness of your breathing with the experience. One thing that you find out when you have been practicing mindfulness for a while is that nothing is quite as simple as it appears, ” says Dr. Kabat-Zinn. “This is as true for walking as it is for anything else. For one thing, we carry our mind around with us when we walk, so we are usually absorbed in our own thoughts to one extent or another. We are hardly ever just walking, even when we are just going out for a walk.”
As you progress, you will be able to walk and meditate for longer periods. The video below is a guided walking meditation that lasts 30 minutes:
If you would like to know more about walking meditation with horses, you can click here or read my book Mindfulness and Meditation in the South of France.
In my book, I explain how we use different meditation methods like walking, writing, working, music and of course equine-guided meditation to help our workshop participants cope with stress more effectively. Available from Amazon.