healthy human comprises a healthy body and a sound heart. By heart, one doesn’t mean only the physical heart but the spiritual heart as well. It is no secret that keeping your diet in check and exercising can help your body stay healthy and fit. But just as for your body, your mind needs some kind of regular exercise too if it is to stay in a healthy condition. Often the spiritual benefits of exercise are overlooked. Meditation is a common exercise for improving your mental health. But what if you can get the benefits of meditation and exercise at the same time? Fortunately, there is an easy method that can help you with that.
What is walking meditation?
It is a simple Buddhist practice also referred to as ‘kinhin’ in the Buddhist terms. It is a form of practice that is designed to bring body and mind into sync when we’re in motion. Like regular meditation, it’s purpose is to bring about awareness, connectedness, and peace while getting in sync with your body. Walking meditation is as simple to practice as its name implies. You can do it with regular meditation in which you first meditate in a still position and then start to shift to a walking position, or you can start directly with walking. It might seem simple, but the benefits of meditation combined with walking can outweigh other forms of stationary meditations you usually perform.
When the pandemic hit, I’ve stayed at home all day almost two months. I left the house once per week for grocery shopping, and that was it. After those two months, I felt that I must do some physical activity. I need to get out. So I started going out for a run, walk. But then, a couple of weeks ago I’ve read about walking meditation so I gave it a try.
I’ve been a fan of meditation for some time now, and I do it regularly. I learned how to relax and meditate in almost any situation. Meditating while walking is a little different though. You are not sitting or lying down, you are moving while you should also totally relax. It wasn’t easy at first, but I quickly got a hang of it.
First time I just decided to go for a walk, and be fully aware of my surroundings. I was fully present, looking around and appreciating every little beauty around me. I realised how many trees are around me, and how loud birds are singing. Which is very unusual in the middle of Bucharest. I got very relaxed, and felt a deep happiness. I had a huge appreciation for everything around me: buildings, trees, cars, people, etc. Anything I saw, I told myself: how nice, I’m so fortunate to live here and have all the beauty around me.
When I went for a walk the next day, I did the same, but I also focused on my breathing. I reach a much higher relaxation level. After a 15 minute walk, I found a bench, sat down, and continued with a regular meditation. All the bird singing around me, the wind breezing the trees. With this short 30-40 minute walk, I managed to charge my batteries to 100%. When I arrived home, I felt like I was on a vacation. I’ve felt like I’m ready to take on the world.
The third time was even better. I decided not to focus on my environment anymore, only on my thoughts. When I had the option, I also closed my eyes. I reached a high level of mindfulness. I didn’t think that it is possible while moving. After the 15 minutes walking meditation, again, I continued on a bench. It’s crazy how much a walk with a little spin can help me recharge and refocus. It’s great and it’s working. Read further and I advise you to try it as soon as you can :).
How to practice walking meditation?
Here are some steps and techniques which you can follow to perform it effectively.
1. Choose a comfortable location.
The prime function of meditation is to Focus on the heart, mind, and soul and to reflect on oneself. This objective cannot be achieved if one is meditating in a crowded and noisy location. So I always chose a peaceful place to meditate. Make sure there are no distractions and that you can focus on your walking as much as you can. However, this particular type of meditation not only requires a quiet spot but also needs a spacious site, where one can walk and move without any interruption.
Thus, practicing walking meditation in spots like the roof of one’s house, terrace, and a quiet park is recommended where you can easily walk without any physical or mental interference.
You should select a path without any disruption and start walking on it at a slow pace, such that the focus should be on the heart and soul. Walking at a faster tempo may distract the mind from the activity at hand, and you might start to feel fatigued.
So, try to meditate calmly and slowly. If you start to a brisk walk, this will deteriorate your meditative efforts, and you will not be able to ripe the full benefits of walking meditation.
3. The placement of your hands.
You must do everything in his might to avoid any type of diversion and hindrance while meditation and focus entirely on your thoughts and the sensations you feel in your body as you walk. To do this, it is advised to keep the hands behind the back. This seems more comfortable and facile as you won’t be unnecessarily distracted by your hands’ movement.
But if you do not feel pleasant and comfortable while keeping the hands behind your back, you can keep the hands hanging on the sides or at the front as well.
4. Thoughts and Attention
As I mentioned above, the actual objective of meditation is self-betterment, self-reflection, peace, and to attain a sound heart. So it is of pivotal importance that you must keep your thoughts in check. The attention should be towards the quality of thoughts you are having and how specific thinking patterns affect you.
You might not be wholly able to concentrate and pay undivided attention to the thoughts you are having and maybe diverted and distracted by all the movement and walking. This is okay and perfectly natural. When you note that your mind is wandering, just try to focus again on your body’s movement. In regular meditation, you focus on your breath. In walking meditation, you focus on your movement. When you get distracted by thoughts, you acknowledge them and bring your focus back to your walking.
Your vision also plays a vital role in meditation. Usually, it is advisable to close your eyes in stationary meditation as it helps you focus more. If you have a safe path without hindrance, you can even walk with your eyes closed. When the eyes are shut, it is quite easy to concentrate and focus. However, a path without hindrance must be chosen to make the locomotion with closed eyes possible. But, if one such way is not available, you can also do walking meditation with eyes open, but it is not advisable.
Small steps must be taken to prevent exhaustion. When the body is tired, the mind finds it difficult to pay undivided attention to anything. Meditation is a game of concentration, focus, and attention, so it is essential to pay attention to small details. Taking small steps ensures that the toll on the physical body is the minimum while the mind and soul are in full action.
It is advised that this variation of meditation must be practiced for not more than 10-15 mins a day. If done for a long time, there is a fear of inconsistency.
People often don’t benefit from meditation because they do not do it long enough to harness the full benefits. Consistency is key. Even 10-15 minutes of walking meditation will help you a lot, but you have to do it every day for at least a month to start experiencing the benefits.
Benefits of Walking Meditation
Walking meditation helps both the body and mind. Here are some benefits of walking meditation that can change your life for the better.
The physical benefits of walking meditation are as follows:
1. Blood flow
Walking for 10-15 mins a day has proven to increase the blood flow throughout the body. The entire body and the legs, in particular, remain very active. The muscle and mind connection improves significantly.
2. Improved Digestion
Humans, like every other animal, have to digest food. And what better way to do that than some physical exercise. It is recommended by doctors to walk for 10-20 minutes at night after dinner for improved digestion.
3. Blood starch/sugar levels
A study held in 2016 has confirmed that Buddhist style walking meditation has an optimistic and beneficial effect on blood starch/sugar levels. It also proves quite positive to improve type 2 diabetes.
4. Improved sleep
Mild to moderate exercise or walking for 10-20 minutes has a positive effect on sleep. When muscles are sore from walking, the body wants the muscle tissues to recover as soon as possible. And so the body wants to go into a state of rest/sleep to recover, which helps a person improve his sleep.
5. Healthy habit:
Meditating while walking makes exercise enjoyable. And this is a very healthy habit. The body and the mind remain fresh and sound. A man may go on to live a prosperous while abiding by such healthy and productive habits.
The spiritual/ physiological benefits are as follows:
1. Reduces anxiety and depression
The biggest benefit of meditation, and why people mostly do it, is its benefits for mental health. Often, there is a rapid decrease in anxiety and depression in people who practiced meditation, particularly walking meditation.
During meditation, the heart is the focus, and when the heart, soul, and mind are at rest and peace, then mental and social
issues like anxiety and depression will be goners. It also promotes happiness, and it is common for Buddhists and monks who practice meditation to be significantly happier than people who don’t.
Our physical body needs a medical checkup now and then. Likewise, the heart requires that its rust be removed and what better way to do that than meditation. When the heart is sound and fresh, one thrives and leaps towards self-improvement and becomes more productive and creative.
3. Productivity and creativity
While walking in a garden or on the house’s roof, staring at the stars in the sky and meditating simultaneously, you start to get more creative. This may also help people to improve their performance at work.
Walking meditation is an easy to use yet highly effective technique that can help calm both your body and mind. Setting a proper routine for daily walking meditation sessions can help you not only improve your physical health but also increase your happiness and work as an everyday stress-relieving agent and keep anxiety and several other psychological issues at bay.