How To Master Walking Meditation

Posted in Zen Buddhism by Anmol Mehta

Buddhist Meditation Technique

Walking Meditation Tips

(Anmol: Hi Everyone, I am back from a break and happy to be sharing more yoga, zen and meditation insights and wisdom with you all.  To get started I would like to present the following guest post from Axel. It is always great to learn from someone who has real and deep experience of a subject and this is all the more important when it comes to meditation and spirituality.  Axel, who was an actual Buddhist Monk and now shares his wisdom, knowledge and expertise with you on his great meditation website Axel G.

If you would like to be a guest author on Master of Meditation and Yoga, please email me at anmol@anmolmehta.com).

How To Master Walking Meditation 

By Axel Gjertsen 

In the previous post, A Beginner’s Guide To Walking Meditation we explored the fundamentals. In this article you’ll learn how to master walking meditation.

Mastery of anything in life takes dedication and years of practice. So, don’t expect to become an expert overnight. Having said that, the pointers in this post will help you take your practice to a high level.

A final note before we get started. This article has been written for intermediate and advanced meditators, so please do not feel discouraged if you don’t understand all the subtleties. As with anything in the field of spirituality, understanding comes with first-hand experience. By keeping up your practice, your understanding will deepen step by step…

Regular Practice

In order to take walking meditation to the next level you have to establish a regular practice. This forms your very foundation. But there’s no need to overdo it, I would suggest you practice 5 days per week. The benefit of this approach is that you’re still quite flexible with 2 free days every week.

Meditation Retreats

Next, in order to make solid progress you need to do a few meditation retreats per year. It does take some time to settle in to the retreat environment and to calm down stress, restlessness and compulsive thinking.  In my experience it takes about 5 days of retreat practice to calm the mind to a deep level. Once the mind is really peaceful, you’re in a position to make accelerated progress…

Now, how does that work?

When the mind is calm it’s naturally focused. The opposite would be a stressed out stockbroker who’s fully caught up in thinking.

Intensive practice generates a lot of mental energy which in turn makes the mind calm, and when the mind is calm it’s easier to concentrate. Does it make sense?

Another plus with retreats is the freedom from distractions such as tv, internet, music, phones, stress, work, kids etc. While in retreat you can give yourself fully to your meditation practice which makes it a wonderful opportunity to nurture yourself from deep within.

When a group of people meditate together for any length of time, they build up mental energy that we could call group energy. That type of energy truly fuels spiritual growth.

It doesn’t really matter how long your retreats are but as I’ve already mentioned, it takes at least 5 days of retreat practice to reach an optimal mental state. Based on that, I would recommend that most of your retreats should be 5 days or longer.

The more time you spend practicing at an optimal mental state, the more progress you make…

Alternating Between Sitting And Walking Meditation

Always start with walking meditation. Anywhere from 20-60 minutes is a good benchmark. Then, change to sitting meditation for the same period of time.

As I mentioned in the previous post, walking meditation generates a lot of mental energy while sitting meditation boosts concentration. A healthy balance between mental energy and concentration makes the meditation flow naturally.

With some experience you’ll be able to feel a rush of mental energy as you sit down after a session of walking meditation.

When I’m in retreat I do more walking than sitting meditation. There are two reasons for that:

– I’m not comfortable sitting on the floor because of neck and knee injuries. That is one of the reasons why I fell in love with walking meditation in the first place.

– Insights come naturally during walking meditation. I’ve had very few insights in sitting meditation. Most of them come while walking. The mind is generally too concentrated during sitting meditation for any insight to arise.

Spiritual Insights

During walking meditation on the other hand the mind is less concentrated, since you have to walk and meditate at the same time. That’s when spiritual insights tend to surface.

An insight could be defined as an aha moment where you intuitively gain clear understanding of how the mind operates. Another way of putting it would be to say that an insight is clear understanding of spiritual wisdom.

Mental energy helps trigger insights. Most meditators have their very first insights during meditation retreats, much thanks to the build up of intense group energy. As you already know, mental energy fuels concentration and it’s natural to have an  insight whenever the mind is in a state of relaxed attention.

Spiritual insights can arise anytime and anywhere. In the shower or on your way home from a retreat…

In Japanese zen they fully embrace this wisdom by practicing both sitting and walking meditation in a group. The walking meditation is done clockwise in a circle, inside the temple, and the build up of mental energy is very powerful.

Advanced Tips For Walking Meditation

– Meditate in the mornings, midday, evenings and in the middle of the night.

– Practice walking meditation at home, alone, with friends, in churches, temples, at meditation centers, in nature and in bustling cities.

– Never run on auto pilot like a machine and don’t let your comfort zone limit your practice. Instead, always strive to break habits. That’s an essential part of developing versatility as a meditator.

– Always meditate with your spine upright or straight.

– Switch off the phone, close the door and create space for your meditation practice.

– If you feel restless, do more walking meditation.

– If it’s difficult to concentrate, do more sitting meditation.

– We generally get tired after eating, but the first 45 minutes after a meal is one of the best times to practice. When you start to get tired, you can take a short nap.

– Large meals make you tired. So, eat smaller servings 3-5 times per day.

– Try to meditate with the lights dimmed low. It’s most calming.

– Occasionally do walking meditation with the eyes closed for a brief moment. It makes it easier to concentrate and to become one with the meditation object.

– Try the following whenever you’re tired or bored with your meditation practice. It’s a way to excite the mind: walk backwards, sideways, in slow motion or fast.

– Try to meditate when you’re under stress and really tired, for the purpose of familiarizing yourself with various mental states.

– Try walking meditation with a mudra. Simply put your palms together and rest them against your chest. That will boost mental energy.

– Attend 1, 5, 10, 15, 20, 30-day retreats.

– Do a short self-retreat at home.

– Always give your meditation object relaxed attention. Don’t try too hard.

There is no need to take on all of these pointers. Feel free to experiment with the ones that inspire you…

Advanced Walking Meditation Technique

Advanced techniques are not better than basic techniques, however some meditators find them more practical or flexible if you like. It’s important to know that you can master walking meditation with the basic techniques taught in the Beginner’s Guide.

Here, I would like to share the straightforward yet somewhat abstract meditation technique I use for all body postures. It’s my main meditation technique. Using the same meditation object for every body posture makes practice really easy.

The power of practicing one technique lies in the fact that you become really familiar with it, and eventually it becomes second nature.

Please note that in addition to using this technique for sitting, walking, standing and lying meditation, I also use it for what I call mindfulness practice. But more about that in a future post…

Whenever you find a meditation technique that fits your hand like a glove – stick to it! It’s highly individual, some seekers spend decades looking for the right meditation technique and guru, while others discover it on day one. It’s a blessing to find what you’ve been looking for.

Advanced Instructions

– This technique can be used for all body postures.

– The meditation object are the sensations in your abdomen. You may become aware of neutral sensations, subtle energy, emotions, movement, pressure, tightness, warmth etc.

– Relax and open up fully to what you feel in the abdomen. (Opening up is somewhat similar to listening.)

– Do you very best to open up to the sensations and give them gentle, loving, caring attention.

– Don’t try to boost or strengthen the sensations by clutching on to them with intense concentration.

– It’s only natural to want to make the sensations stronger, since that makes it easier to feel them. Instead, open up to the sensations without trying to boost them in any way. Open up to the sensations and give them gentle, loving, caring attention.

– By opening up, you’ll experience new dimensions of yourself. You’ll be able to tune in to your inner world, in an instant. It’s a beautiful and refreshing mental state.

– Let go of all of your expectations since they only get in the way.

– I suggest you start to experiment with the technique in sitting meditation, which is easier. Once you have grown familiar with it, you can use it for all body postures.

– That means you will be giving attention to the sensations in your abdomen, while doing walking meditation, and not to your legs and feet.  That can take some time to get used to…

Walking Meditation In Nature

You can practice on the beach, in the mountains, in the forest or in your own garden. Outdoor practice is quite different from indoor practice. It’s really inspiring to do walking meditation in nature. At the same time, you have to give some attention to your immediate surroundings so you don’t accidentally step on a snake or fall into a hole.

Believe it or not, there are usually more distractions in nature than in your own living room, depending on what time of the year it is and where you go. Outdoor distractions include wind, precipitation, ants, flies, mosquitoes, birds, noise in the distance, interesting things to look at etc.

– Either pace back and forth within a small area or walk along a track. The are no hard rules, so try and see what works best for you.

– Alternate between walking and sitting meditation as usual.

– Walk slowly to make it as easy a possible.

– Bring a sitting pad, sit on park benches or even on the ground.

– Give relaxed attention to your meditation object. Don’t try too hard.

Walking Meditation In Cities

Generally we opt to practice meditation with minimal distractions.  However, sometimes it’s good to practice with distractions for the purpose of cultivating steadfast concentration. That requires that you connect more deeply with your meditation object. A deeper connection will enable you to practice under any conditions.

Keep in mind that your level of concentration in the city and suburban streets won’t be as high as in nature. There are more distractions in towns and you don’t want to get run over by a vehicle.

So, take on a more casual approach. Give attention to your meditation object and also to what’s going on around you.

Slowing down makes it a lot easier.

This practice is not about giving 100% of your attention to the meditation object, rather it’s about transcending the distractions. That makes busy city streets most conducive to the mastery of walking meditation.

Even when doing walking meditation in 5th Avenue on Manhattan, you want to give relaxed attention to your meditation object. Don’t try too hard which only builds up physical tension. That means you have to learn to connect more deeply with your meditation object.

Rudolf Steiner was a Christian mystic and to the best of my memory, he said, "A spiritual seeker must become as familiar with her soul, as she is with her physical body."

That holds true when it comes to connecting deeply with your meditation object. It can be difficult and quite abstract at first. How do you do it?  The answer is to give relaxed attention to your meditation object and to practice, practice, practice…

You can practice walking meditation on your way to work, to the local corner store or on a Sunday walk. It could be for anything from 5 minutes to an hour.

If you have the time, you can alternate the walking with sitting meditation. I often nip in to a church for the sitting. I like the space and it’s nice and warm.

A good alternative is to do the sitting meditation once you get back home.

Good luck with your practice!

Axel Gjertsen has been a Buddhist monk in Thailand.  He runs axel g which is a personal development site with a focus on meditation. If you have any questions about your meditation practice, feel free to contact him for some friendly advice. 

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5 Responses to “How To Master Walking Meditation”

  1. 5
    obadiah Says:

    u really like this type of meditation coz it gives me the wealth

  2. 4
    astral projection Says:

    I love walking meditation. I will walk around my block putting my attention on object while I walk. It’s very difficult to think when you put your attention on objects.

  3. 3
    Hatha Yoga Blog » Blog Archive » Powerful Gayatri Mantra Meditation Video to Open Third Eye Says:

    [...] How To Master Walking Meditation [...]

  4. 2
    Komang Says:

    thanks for the information…
    Regard from Bali….

  5. 1
    gul Says:

    Thanks so much as always I realy enjoy a lot of your site, blessing all to you

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