5 Ways of Practicing Walking Meditation
This is the 2nd part of a two part series of Walking Meditation: PART 1 about 5 Keys for Walking Meditation, PART 2 about 5 Ways of Practicing Walking Meditation. Walking meditation is an active experience of inner serenity. By combining the mindfully-directed physical action of walking with meditative inner awareness, you bring the body and mind into oneness. It is an experience of inner stillness in the midst of movement. Although the general purpose of walking meditation is taking a break from sitting meditation, reducing sleepiness during meditation, or refreshing the mind from fatigue, walking meditation is also a good way to cultivate mental and physical vigilance, enhance circulation and digestion, reduce stress and depression, and improve sleep patterns.
For ease of the body, stand straight with your lower back and the back of your neck vertically aligned. Tuck in your lower belly and chin. Let both arms hang naturally at your sides, or keep both hands on the lower stomach with the palms open (place the left palm on top of the right hand). Keep your gaze forward, but lower it about 15 degrees, and contain your mental focus.
Walk naturally and slowly in a counterclockwise circular path; or walk straight forward, turn around, and walk back to where you began.
When you step, touch the heel first, then the toes. To start, inhale with your heel touch, and exhale with your toe touch. The key is to be aware of the sensation of each change, accept it without judgment, and continue on. Keep your mind free from whatever enters your sensory system. Simply walk, breathe, and be part of the entire canvas of being.
Walking meditation lasts generally for 5 minutes after 30 minutes of sitting meditation, 10-15 minutes after 50 minutes of sitting meditation, 20-30 minutes after 2 hours of sitting meditation. For exercise, you may walk 20 minutes to 2 hours.
As a preparation for walking breathing, in a standing position, inhale as deeply as you can, and expel as much air as you can. Repeat this 3 times. This is called up-and-down breath or vertical breath, meaning you are moving the diaphragm in an up-and-down movement.
After 3 repetitions of the up-and-down breath, still in a standing position, begin to practice out-and-in breath or horizontal breath, meaning gently inhale through your nose by pushing your belly out forward for 3 seconds; at about 80% of full inhalation, hold your breath for 3 seconds; then exhale through your mouth by releasing the belly toward the spinal cord for 4 to 6 seconds, and at about 80% full exhalation, hold your breath for 2 to 3 seconds. If you do it correctly, one breath will take 12 to 15 seconds. Repeat the breath of your choice 3 times.
For a beginner, I recommend the 12 second horizontal breath method (3-3-4-2 for inhale-hold-exhale-hold).
After a few days of practice, you may be able to practice the 15 second horizontal breath method (3-3-6-3 for inhale-hold-exhale-hold). Whatever you do, don’t push yourself too far. Stay within your comfort range.
5 Ways of Walking Breathing
There are various ways of breathing during walking meditation. I would like to introduce 5 types: 1-1 walk-breath, 1-2 walk-breath, 2-4 breath-walk, 1-8 breath-walk, and free walk.
Walk-breath means your breath follows your steps whereas breath-walk means your steps follow your breath. It sounds confusing, but you will feel the difference as you progress in walking meditation practice.
1-1 walk-breath: Take a left step forward and inhale; take a right step forward and exhale. Walk slowly and breath accordingly. Walk 9 left-right steps, turn, and repeat.
1-2 walk-breath: Take a left step forward and inhale; take a right step and left step forward while exhaling. This practice, requiring left-right coordination, helps you expand your exhalation to twice as long as your inhalation. If you feel uncomfortable or distracted, you may skip this method and come back to it when you have more experience with walking breathing.
2-4 breath-walk: Take 2 steps forward while inhaling, and take four steps forward while exhaling. In 2-4 breath-walk, you walk much faster than in the 1-1 walk-breath. Repeat 5 times (total of 30 steps), pause, turn, and resume in the opposite direction. Or keep walking in a circular path for 5 to 10 minutes.
1-7 breath-walk: This exercise is for advanced practitioners. Inhale deeply at your first left step forward, exhale for the next 7 steps. Repeat 9 sets of this exercise (total of 71 steps), turn, and resume in the opposite direction. Or keep walking in a circular path for 5 to 10 minutes.
Free Walk: Once you are comfortable with all of these methods, you can freely explore the way you would like to walk while meditating or meditate while walking.
Any combinations of the 5 walking breathing meditation methods can make your practice more challenging, creative and enjoyable. Adding an additional component to your walking meditation would be fun: natural environment. The things in nature can be a distraction or an inspiration during meditation. How about listening to birds during walking, consciously? Why not gazing at the daffodils along a country road or smelling the morning fog blowing in from the ocean?
Nature is powerful, silently expanding my awareness. Connecting, unconditionally, deeply to what is inside me. In this, I walk as I am as the things in nature sing as they are, with no intention to interrupt.