In order to have peace and joy, you must succeed in having peace within each of your steps. Your steps are the most important thing.
– Thich Nhat Hanh
Basic Approach to a Straight Path Walking Meditation
To begin a walking meditation, first simply stand. Just stand on one spot. Be still in your body and in your standing be aware of the weight pressing through the soles of your feet into the earth. Tune into all of the subtle movements that we naturally undertake to stay upright. It is not necessary to take a mudra, but it does help create the distinction between just strolling and an intentional experience. Curl the thumb of your left hand in and wrap your fingers around it. Place it just above your belly button and wrap your right hand around it. Slip the right thumb to rest in the space formed between your left thumb and index finger. This creates a point of purchase to land your stray energy and helps to set up the sensation of being in balance and stable. As an added benefit this will keep your arms from swinging which can either be a rhythmic focus or a complete distraction.
For this type of walking meditation, choose a straight path of about 30 feet long. On this path you will walk back and forth between two specific points. This allows you to let go of the call of your fit bit(keep it on, don’t check it). Mostly let go of needing to get somewhere.
You can practice barefoot, or wearing your comfy shoes. Stand upright, with your eyes cast down about a two yards ahead and use a soft gaze, maha drishti, that is not the feel of looking at anything in particular. On your very simple course your gait does not need to be careful to avoid obstacles and your peripheral vision can tighten in because you only need to put one foot in front of the other.
Taking it up a notch to a Hiking Meditation
You may choose the path of a challenging hike to create a state of meditation. Be completely aware as you walk of the process of walking. Keep your attention on the soles of the feet, and all the sensations originating there as they arise and then as you move on, so do they. Let feelings come up from the foot, through the length of the leg over the hips to the heart. As you move forward, move through them and then past them. Feel the muscles in your legs and feet tense flex as you lift the leg. Encourage a deep visceral experience of rising through the body and passing on and through each emotional response.
This begins to create a rhythm of experiencing sensation as transitive and ephemeral and correlating this to emotion helps to develop the bodily awareness that sensation and the corresponding emotional responses are things that you can pass into and then through as you move on. In the rhythmic hike note that as the foot comes up there is a moment that is distinct from the moment it comes down. When it comes down again into contact with the path, it is a new moment and maybe a new opportunity for sensation to trigger emotion so feel it and then feel it pass. You can change your pace but notice it and stay within a speed range that lets you stay connected to the experience.
Stop if you feel like it. Stand still or sit down. But, be clear about the moment you are ready to come to the end. The finish should feel like a natural moment of conclusion. You’re not freezing on the spot; you’re just allowing yourself to come to a stop. Experience yourself standing. Just notice what it’s like to no longer be in motion; just standing on the earth in a new place to close the practice in stillness.
If something catches your eye while hiking or walking and you just can’t let go of it; stop and look. Make it a looking meditation. When you feel finished, continue walking. If you find that you’re getting drowsy or distracted, you can use a mantra and repeat it in your head on the whisper of breath in and out. Increase the speed of repetition if the mind insists on wandering or try walking faster.