Should you try a Walking Meditation?
When you think about meditation, you may automatically picture yourself sitting or lying down, but meditating while walking is quite a spiritual practice. I practice a daily walking meditation. I began this practice last year during the pandemic. I signed up for the virtual Camino de Santiago de Compostela challenge (Way of St. James) a pilgrim route that begins in France and ends at the tomb of St. James in Santiago de Compostela (a city in north-west Spain).
As a contemplative, I had always mediated or practiced contemplative prayer sitting down or lying down. I have always wanted to walk the Camino and last year I decided that I would commit to the 480 miles virtual trek and make it my daily spiritual practice. To be honest I wasn’t doing well spiritually and the pandemic was only making it worse.
I did not anticipate the spiritual transformation that occurred because of my meditative walks. At first I was just walking for the sake of walking. But then my body began to connect to my spirit in a way it had never done before. I realized that with all the busyness of work, conferences, travel, and family responsibilities, I had neglected my body and my spirituality. My mind was the one in control and there was a lack of balance and wellness in my life. I had gained 20 lbs. and I wasn’t happy. As the weeks carried on, I began to have a mind, body, spirit connection. I was present to myself in the way that I wasn’t present in the past. It was like I had woken up from a black and white dream and now I could see in color. I had never felt so connected with myself, the divine, and creation. I felt like me and my body was so happy to be moving. I walked twice a day around my neighborhood and I lost over 20 lbs in seventy two days. If I had just started meditating, I probably would have abandoned it at the time. I was just too disconnected from my body. A walking meditation reignited my contemplative prayer life and got me back on track towards balance, wellness, and self-care.
Want to start a Walking Meditation Practice?
- Create a path. Lay out a route for yourself. You could walk around your living room or visit a local park or beach. If you stick to an area you know well, it will be easier to minimize distractions.
- Focus on your feet. Start out by noticing each step. Over time, you’ll become more aware of the many individual movements involved. Imagine that your soles are caressing the earth.
- Pace yourself. Most people find that a slower pace helps to becoming more deliberate and attentive. You may want to start out walking the way you usually do and gradually ease up. Sometimes someone passes me on my walk and I judge myself. I think I am walking too slow and I want to pick up the pace. That is when I remind myself that I am on my own path and I retain my pace.
- Lower your eyes. Try keeping your eyes half shut and softly aimed at the ground a couple of feet ahead of you. If you’re in a spot where there are too many obstacles to do this, relax and enjoy the scenery.
- Position your arms. Lower your shoulders and let your arms hang easily along the side of your body. If you start moving your arms side to side, you are more likely to pick up the pace and distract yourself.
- Smile. Let a smile well up from within. Enjoy nature and the scenery around you. If walking inside, visualize where you would like to be.
- Quiet down. Leave your earphones at home if possible. Observe the stillness in your mind. Some days, I listen to meditative music, others I walk in silence. I listen to Taizé music as the chanting often helps me stay focused and centered. You can also break down your walk into parts in silence, others with music. Listen to what your soul needs.
- Take full breaths. Breathe deeply from your diaphragm. Feel your abdomen rise and fall. Gradually synchronize your footsteps and your breath in whatever pattern is natural for you.
- Connect with the Divine. This is a great opportunity to chat with God/the Divine/Spirit. For me it is a daily check in where I bring forth my gratitude, my pains, frustrations, my laughter and joy. The Divine also provides new/unique ways of showing up on a walk.
- Include a sitting meditation. A walking meditation is an ideal transition to a sitting meditation. A brief walking meditation session will help you clear your head and dissolve tension in your body so you can concentrate better. Sometimes I end a walking meditation with a sitting meditation and I find that my body, mind, and spirit are more ready and open for a sitting meditation
- Alternate between walking and sitting. Another good use for a walking meditation is to make it a complement to your sitting practice.
Dr. Patty Jiménez is the Founder of Recetas. She obtained 2 Masters in Theology and Ministry and a Doctorate in Ministry specializing in Latinx theology and ministry. She has over 27 years experience in Catholic Ministry and is a spiritual director and training as a wellness coach.