Walking meditation can be short or long in duration, depending upon the amount of time available. This exercise supports the practice of indoor or outdoor walking meditation for either individuals or groups. It is offered in three parts: opening remarks, middle contemplations, and concluding words. When practicing alone, read the words slowly and silently to yourself. When practicing in a group, one person should read the offering aloud in a clear and relaxed way. The community should walk in the same direction (in a circle if indoors) like many cells of one body. Sounding a bell at the start and end of each section of text can help the group move as a whole.
Change agents are very busy people and problems in the world can consume us. We almost always think about the causes and circumstances of suffering. We analyze power structures sustaining the unwholesome status quo and make and revise plans to redirect resources to achieve fairness and sustainability. Then, we measure our success, revise strategies, and go at it again. The work is enormous and without end.
To care for ourselves as Mindful Advocates, we learn to bring an end to unconscious habits of busy-ness, thinking too much, analyzing, planning and measuring. We develop ways to interrupt old ways of being and embody peace to create balance. We water lasting seeds of happiness in ourselves and others by nourishing hearts and minds with beauty and love that can only be accessed in the here and now. Mostly, we learn to stop and to simply be.
Anyone can do it.
We can teach ourselves to interrupt habitual thinking and stop planning by practicing walking meditation. As we walk, we take slow and relaxed steps leading to nowhere special. With every step we simply arrive to the present moment. Our lips smile. We let go of thoughts of productivity and craving for results to welcome ease. We don’t analyze the quality of our walking, measure if we are the best walkers, or plan to walk to a particular destination. We stop our racing minds and walk in happy awareness of the perfection of this moment just as it is.
To keep your mind from running its familiar course, pay attention to the sensations of your steps on Earth. Relax your posture. Place your arms in a neutral position. As you breathe in, feel the pressure of your weight as you step onto your right foot. As you breathe out, feel the weight shift as you step onto your left foot. Pay attention to the workings of your feet as you move: the contributions of your foot’s arch and toes. Notice how the muscles of your legs fire and release to maintain balance as you journey.
Walking meditation is not a waste of time; it is the essence of life. The quality of your life depends upon the quality of mindfulness in each step. If you worry about the past or get caught in fears about the future, you miss the safety, beauty, and joy that envelops you completely in this moment. Live each step; here is your life.
Let us walk together.
Please answer these questions in silence. What are you experiencing in this moment? Are you struggling with any aspect of mindful walking? Is there tension in your body? Do you feel ease? Or do you feel a combination of both tension and ease? Do habit energies arise in your consciousness: busy-ness, thinking too much, analyzing, planning, and measuring? Do you feel sad, angry, joyful, or a neutral emotion? What are you learning in this moment from the miracle of walking on earth?
When you are mindful of your steps, habit energies—like measuring and analyzing past actions or thinking about and planning for the future—fall away. Instead, you develop awareness of the reality of now—the sensations of walking on Earth. In this way, you taste your true nature. You are not the small self you thought you were: a creature of habit responding to the world’s stimuli. You are the being who can notice and interrupt automatic responses and in their place choose to react in kinder, more generous, and healing ways. Becoming skillful at stopping the habit of reactivity to the world and choosing a peaceful way of being in the world uncovers a source of profound nourishment, happiness, and power.
Let us continue the practice of stopping our habit energies as we walk together in peace. With each step ask yourself, am I stopping?
When we stop running and learn to walk in mindful awareness, taking in what is happening in the present moment, we restore peace and well-being in ourselves. But it doesn’t end there; our transformation heals others and Earth herself. We live our life in relationship with the whole, there is no separation. Watering seeds of peace and awareness in ourselves is in fact a radical act of cultivating peace and awareness in the world. This is not poetry. This is the magnitude of every peaceful step we take. Everything matters. Nothing is lost.
Practice walking meditation throughout your day with each step. Put a light smile on your lips and walk as an enlightened being—someone dwelling in the here and now—as you move to the copy machine, the podium for a presentation, through the door of a difficult meeting, or simply to the bathroom. If you find you are caught in thinking, analyzing, planning, or measuring, be kind to yourself. Say “hello” to the habit energy like an old friend, and chose instead to be peace.