top of page

Walking Meditation

It's true that meditating with the body sitting still helps tremendously with building a strength of attention. But we want that strength to apply in all the activities of our daily lives, and many of them include movement. Although the focus of the suggestions on this page are about walking, you can apply them generally to many bodily movements such as jogging and running, yoga, exercise and weight-training, and more. See the links below for information and basic instructions about sitting breath meditations:

The sitting form of Zen meditation is probably the most familiar to people, especially through iconic imagery of the Buddha, so often shown sitting cross-legged. But the Buddha didn't sit around all day! He had to get up and move around just like we all do, such as when heading into villages to receive alms - donations of food for monks made by lay people.

Just as with sitting meditation, with walking meditation, the foundation of the practice is attention. Walking is so automatic for us that we hardly ever take a pause to notice that it is an intentional, physical activity. Consider some of these things as you move your body throughout the day:

  • Start with attention on the breath. Yes, the breath! Even though this is walking meditation, we begin with the ground. Not the ground below our feet (see the next item for that) but the ground of the body's functioning. The breath is always here and the breath is always now  -  it is a foundation of all the body's activity. Start by noticing the feeling of the breath in your abdomen, and after a few minutes of that, expand your attention on to the other items in this list.

  • Notice the contact of feet with the ground below. With each step, feel the pressure of the ground or floor against the bottom of your feet. It changes as the feet rise and fall, notice the change.

  • Feel the coordinated effort of moving the legs. Each step is a beautifully choregraphed lifting and lowering of feet, ankles, legs, and hips. Pay attention to all those parts as they work to move you forward.

  • See the ground ahead where you're going. We often don't notice the ground in front of us because it's uniform and flat and it doesn't demand much concentration. But hikers know to pay careful attention to the ground ahead, especially if it's filled with tree roots and rocks and is unlevel. Watch the ground in front of you and notice what's there, not just obstacles, but the color and texture of whatever surface you're moving upon.

  • Listen to your environment. No matter where you're walking, there is plenty to hear, so put the headphones away. You don't need to listen to music or podcasts while you walk, your environment is filled with sounds! Depending on where you are walking, there may be birdsong and wind, or perhaps the sound of cars passing by, or maybe all of that and more. Listen to it all, even while you also see the ground ahead and feel each step and stay with the breath.

  • You can pay attention to all of this as you walk, with a full-body awareness. There is a practice in Japan called Forest Bathing, which is a mindful immersion into wild spaces. Really, it's Walking Meditation in a forest setting. But we don't need a forest or the wilderness to open our awareness and to pay careful attention to our breath and our surroundings as we walk. We can do it anywhere and anytime. We can do Suburban Mall Bathing or City Sidewalk Bathing. It's all bathing if our intention is to pay attention.

bottom of page