Friday, August 27, 2010

A Walking Meditation

In the comments section of this week’s previous meditation blog post Dayglo Divine mentioned some drawbacks to the type of meditation I mentioned, particularly as it pertains to people with ADD. I responded by suggesting a walking meditation. In the form of walking meditation I’ve been taught you focus on the small movements that incorporate walking and focus on saying (in your head) the action you're performing as you're performing it.

As an introduction to walking meditation, the process of walking will contain 3 distinct steps that you will repeat over and over, and as I just mentioned, as you perform each step you should say it in your mind. With practice (over time), you can increase the number of steps from 3 to 7 or 8, but increasing the number of steps also increases the difficulty of the meditation. For our purposes I’ll illustrate the steps you would take in a 3-step walking meditation. Here’s how it goes:

  1.  Without shoes, and with 10-15 feet of unobstructed linear space (aka, 10-15 feet in a straight line), begin by standing with the area you’ll use in your walking meditation ahead of you. Focus your gaze downward at a spot on the floor about 5 feet in front of you, with your head at a 45-degree angle. The reason for this is that you want a relaxed posture, but you also will need to see where you’re going. Close your eyes, retract your shoulder blades, and take 10 slow, deep breaths. At the end of the 10th breath, open your eyes and fix your gaze.
  2. Step 1: LIFT. As you break down the steps of walking, the initial step is “lift”. As you bend one knee and raise one heel off the ground, say to yourself: “lift”. When performing each step, you want to slow the action down so that you’re moving at a pace that is peaceful for the meditation – this will seem exceedingly slow compared to how you typically walk.
  3. Step 2: MOVE. As the ball of your foot leaves the ground, say to yourself “move”.
  4.  Step 3: PLACE. As your foot returns to the ground, say to yourself “place”. When I first saw someone demonstrate this walking meditation I asked him after the demo if there was a reason he had performed it walking toe-heel instead of heel-toe. He responded that you should place your foot back on the ground however it feels comfortable to do so. My preconceived notion what that I would walk like I walk when I walk: heel-toe, but then as I was performing the walking meditation for the first time I noticed that it did feel most natural to me to place the ball of my foot on the ground prior to my heel, just as the instructor has. I think it has to do with slowing down the movements that makes toe-heel more natural here. Do whatever feels most comfortable to you.
  5. Repeat Steps 1 through 3 until you come to the end of your open area. When you approach the end, stand with both feet together and say to yourself 3 times: “stop” (aka, “stop, stop, stop”).
  6. Say to yourself 3 times: “turn” (aka, “turn, turn, turn”).
  7. Facing the direction in which you can continue the walking meditation, ensure your gaze is fixed and one last time say to yourself 3 times: “stop” (aka, “stop, stop, stop”).
  8. Continue with Steps 1 through 3, focusing on saying the steps as you perform them. If any other thoughts enter your mind during the meditation, pause, acknowledge them, and dismiss them.

For this and any other type of meditation it’s a useful idea to set a timer that has an audible alarm before you start. This way you won’t be distracted by wondering how much time has passed or by checking your watch or cell phone. Set a timer and allow yourself to be immersed in the meditation until that alarm goes off. When it does, bring your focus back to your body and the environment around you. Conclude by taking several more deep breaths, and feel the breath enter your nostrils, the back of your throat, your lungs, and your belly, and feel it release from those areas as well. Ta-da! You’ve done a walking meditation. I’m interested to see what you think if you try this, so let me know J

As you progress, the three Steps: lift, move, place, can become four Steps: lift, move, lower, place, and these four Steps can become five Steps: raise (foot), left, move, lower, place, etc.

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