(5.3) Meditation on the Move

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Walking Meditation

Meditation can be done in any position, but it's ideal to have your airway open and it's easier if your body is not in pain.

At some times in my life (like grad school), sitting still for meditation has just been too hard for me, and walking meditation really bridged the gap. I also think that meditation while walking integrates the process in ways that sitting doesn't do. It's also very grounding. So walking meditation is not just an easier version, it's something I'd include anyway.

For starters, pick an area that has few distractions, where you'll essentially pace back and forth or walk in a loop. I walk barefoot, but that may or may not work for you.

If you want to condition a scent to be calming, put that scent in the air or on your wrist before the meditation.

The basic walking meditation I do goes like this:

  1. Keep your eyes softly open, focusing on your feet or at a point ahead of you. Be aware of the general space around you without zooming in on the details. Take small careful steps, essentially one foot in front of the other. You're not trying to get anywhere, just keep your body busy so you can get out of the grip of your thoughts.
  2. Take some calming breaths. For example, breathe out slowly until your lungs are empty. Inhale slowly and expand your belly until you can't hold any more. Repeat for 3 breath cycles.
  3. Breathe naturally. Keep walking, one step at a time.
  4. Let whatever sounds are in the area reach your awareness, and let them go. There's no need to stretch your hearing, just hear the sounds as they come. Do this for about a minute.
  5. Do a body scan, top to bottom, as with the meditations in Section 4.3.
  6. Turn your awareness to your feet. One step at time, feel the sensation of your feet on the ground, making contact. Without using words, note the pressure on the various parts of your foot. Allow yourself to feel grounded as you contact the earth or at least the floor.When thoughts arise (notice I didn't write IF), let them go and return attention to your feet. If thoughts are particularly intrusive, you can count your steps in sets of 8. When you lose track of the count, just return your attention back to the steps. If it happens a lot, don't beat yourself up. Just like with dog training, just lower your criteria to something that works. Have a smaller count, like 4 or even 2.
  7. After some time (say, 10 minutes), return your attention to your breath for about a minute, noting when you inhale and when you exhale. If you find that you get lost in thoughts a lot, you can give yourself something to focus on. A common thing to do is count sets of breaths, say 8 at a time.
  8. Allow sounds to come to your attention again, and become aware of the sights around you.
  9. Stretching at the end or shaking off like a wet dog is a fun way to end it.

Other Ways to Mix Movement and Meditation

I've done a lot of meditation sessions while doing physical activities. Any kind of meditation that one does while sitting can be done with movement as well, but there's always some amount of focus on the physical sensations of your body so I don't hurt myself.

My favorite meditations to do while moving are metta (lovingkindness), focusing almost all attention on the breath (a type of insight meditation), and focusing all attention on my physical sensations (also insight meditation).

  • Yoga
  • Walking the dog. Keep your focus on the dog, for example, and the physical sensations of the leash in your hand. Useful with the BAT leash skills.
  • Sex with or without a partner
  • Dance
  • Hiking
  • Stay training with your dog
  • Heel training with your dog. I like doing this with "it's your choice" training, where you basically walk around a small area and give your dog a treat whenever they show up at your left side. While you are walking, you can essentially do the walking meditation above.

Here's an example of a guided meditation for walking in nature: