A Super-Simple Guide to Walking Meditation

Feb 14, 2024

Walking Meditation

Growing up here in Thailand, it’s impossible not to be influenced by the spiritual side of things.

There are beautiful temples everywhere, Buddhist monks on alms rounds every morning and there’s easy access to monks and nuns if you need any spiritual guidance or support. 

Because of that, meditation and mindfulness meditation became a natural part of my life early on and I was introduced to the art of walking meditation at a very young age.

It’s a practice that involves moving in slow motion and following some precise steps.

In Thai we are taught this process: Yok son nor (lift up you heel) – Yok nor (lift up your foot) – Yang nor (move your foot forward) – Tae Nor (touch your foot to the ground) – Yeab nor (put whole foot down). 

However, walking meditation is taught a little differently in Thailand, depending on the teacher.

Some will will teach it in three steps, some in seven, but the core practice always remains the same:

Be mindful.

This style of meditation, with its slow pace and simple process, was really effective in calming my restless monkey mind during my early years.

It was also incredibly useful when I was older and preparing for my entrance exams to study law, which was a pretty stressful time!

zen path in garden

My Personal Version

Today, I want to share with you a walking meditation technique that I’ve been practicing for the last ten years or so.

As you read the steps below, you might notice that I don’t teach you to walk in slow motion; I teach you to walk just a little slower than your normal pace.

Why?

Because it more closely resembles speed you’ll be walking at normally (and the aim, after all, is for you to be able to quickly integrate walking meditation into your daily routines and activities). 

This method not only enhances general meditation skills, like increased concentration, calmness, attention span, but also fosters a fully awake and sharp mind.

A Guide to Practicing Walking Meditation

1. Find the Right Path

Locate a suitable place where you can walk undisturbed. A clear path of 8-12 meters is best. 

If the path is too short it might create stress in the mind as the mind will find it difficult to settle.

However, if the path is too long, it could lead your mind astray.

Balance is the key. It can be indoors (for example, a hallway) or outdoors (for example, a garden path); it’s up to you, as long as you have enough space to walk comfortably.

2. Mindful Starting Point

Stand at one end of the path, hands together at the front or behind your back — your choice.

What you do with your hands and arms isn’t really important, as long as they are not getting in the way of your movement or distracting you.

Dip your head a little so that you gaze is cast down onto the ground about one meter ahead of you.

It will help avoid any unnecessary distractions.

Mentally acknowledge your intention to walk and see, in your mind’s eye, the body standing.

Tune in to the sensations of the present moment as deeply as you can.

3. Gentle Steps

Begin walking.

Move about 20% slower than your usual pace, paying attention to the sensations as your feet touch the ground.

Is it hard? Soft? Pleasant or unpleasant?

When your mind gets lost in thought and wanders, simply notice, then bring your attention back to your walking without stress or frustration.

But not try to fix your mind on any part of your body. Just observe your body taking its step. 

4. Pause and Turn

At the path’s end, take a moment to recognize that you have stopped.

Stop for a few seconds if you wish.

Notice the body standing.

Tune into the sensations as fully as you can.

Then, turn around slowly, acknowledging each movement.

After turning, sense your body in the standing position again, ready to resume walking back and forth.

5. Daily Practice

Devote 5-10 minutes daily to this practice, gradually increasing to 30 minutes.

Consistency is key, and while you might notice some positive changes early on, don’t expect a dramatic transformation with only 30 minutes a day!

The real progress begins when you begin integrating it into your daily life.

Integrating Walking Meditation into Everyday Life

While the benefits of a formal mindful walking practice are amazing, the true magic lies in seamlessly blending it into your routines.

You can also use it for specific reasons, such as calming yourself when you have the potential to become stressed or anxious, especially when sitting down won’t help!

I’ve told you about one of the many times I used walking meditation to calm myself down, but here’s another example.

I remember a student of mine, an international school teacher, was applying for a Principal position and had made it to the very final interview.

She told me how she was so stressed when waiting to be called in that she couldn’t think straight and had so much pent up energy she couldn’t sit down. 

Then she remembered the walking meditation we’d practiced and spent the next 5 minutes walking with mindful awareness up and down in the reception area.

She sad that when she was finally called into the room for the interview of a lifetime, she was grounded, confident and thinking clearly.

She got the job, and told me that without a doubt it was the knowledge of walking meditation that contributed directly to her success in the final interview.

That really made my day 🙂

How to Start

To begin cultivating this practice as something you do automatically in your every day life, you need to try and remember to do it when you’re walking around as normal; for example, in the office, the house, on the street etc. 

The aim is for you to be able to walk with mindfulness at a normal speed, but that takes practice.

The Preparation Stage

So, start by practicing formally as part of your daily routine.

Set aside some time every day to practice walking slowly and deliberately as I explained in steps 1-5 above.

By doing that regularly, your mind and body will become used to doing it.

Once you are able to do this well, it’s time to think about a strategy for integrating it into your daily life.

Integrating the Practice

Because you’ve been practicing the techniques in isolation, when you feel you’re ready to speed things up and practice at a natural walking speed during normal everyday activities in your normal surroundings, it should feel natural and not require too much thinking. 

You should be able to focus your attention on both the walking and everything else that you’d normally need to be aware of.

To do this, it’s best to start by isolating a specific event — or handful of events — in the day during which to practice.

For example, you might begin with your walk to the car in the morning. Or perhaps the walk from the car park or the office. Or the walk to the shops. Or perhaps all three. 

Health Warning!

I’m now going to point out something very obvious (I hope!):

If you’re practicing mindful walking outside, make sure you’re walking at normal speed, otherwise you’ll look like you’re sleepwalking, on drugs, or a zombie — none of which are good looks. 

And pay attention to everything around you. Crossing the street is an obvious example. . . 

Once you’re able to walk mindfully every time you do those journeys, you can begin extending it further. 

If you can manage that — to regularly walk with mindfulness at normal speed as part of a normal day — it’s a HUGE accomplishment. 

But remember:

Don’t expect yourself to be mindful ALL the time when you’re walking. And don’t beat yourself up if you feel you mind wandering. Just notice it has wandered and bring it right back to the step you are taking.

You’ve probably had at least 20 years (and in some case a lot more, right?!) of walking on autopilot, so making the switch to walking mindfully is hard, and it takes time.

So be kind to yourself. 

Because every mindful moment, however fleeting, is a win. 

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