Walking as Meditation

560919_324582447633583_2146583692_nI wish to write a few words on the topic of walking as meditation. Meditation, prayer, or whatever you want to call it, is a practice by which we become settled and at peace. It brings us to the present in that it is by its nature a manifestation of what occurs when we are quiet, still, and simply observe where and who we are.

Meditation is something which occurs naturally. It doesn’t need us to force the issue in order to happen. To intentionally meditate for the purpose of getting something in return, is not true meditation. To explain further we need to distinguish the difference between walking as mediation, and meditating as a means to an end.

As we walk to enjoy our surroundings, slowly observing the trees, people, and other living organisms, the experience brings with it a sense stillness. We didn’t need to look for it or try with all our might to be still, because of course if we’re trying really hard for something, exerting all of our energy for some purpose or pursuit, we aren’t being still. But when we let go of trying to achieve something we thought we didn’t have, we are finally able to see that we’ve always had it awaiting us to see it for ourselves.

As we meditate our thoughts seem to clear. It is not as though our mind becomes emptied, but the confusion of the conscious is put to bed. We come into contact with who we really are beneath the veiled thoughts and symbolic disguises that perpetuate our outward lives. In one sense, meditation brings us to a place where the mask we wear vanishes and we see who we are – who everything is – beneath the mask we call our persona.

Walking is a perfectly natural exercise, and the best way to be alert and aware of our world. There was a time in recent history where all of humanity walked all of the time. Perhaps you may have a grandparent who can still tell stories of walking 8 hours to school in the snow everyday. (Although I suspect some of those stories are at least slightly embellished.) We once walked all the time, anytime we wished to go somewhere. I propose that this is one reason for the increasing epidemic of obesity in societies which now rely so heavily on machine-modes of transportation. We now drive to a gym that is 5 miles from our home so that we can run 5 miles upon a treadmill. Does that make sense to us?

Walking should be done as the heart beats, as the lungs breath, and as the eye sees. You do not have to tell your heart to beat, it does it on its own. In this way, we should not walk for what rewards we might gain; rather, we walk because it is in our nature to need to venture beyond the four walls of our home. When two lovers get into a heated argument it is quite common for one of them to end the hostilities with a proclamation of “I’m going for a walk!” Perhaps if couples fought more often people would walk more as well. Ha ha ha. My point being that we intrinsically know that walking is an activity that naturally brings about a clearing of the mind and stillness to be at peace with who we are.

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4 thoughts on “Walking as Meditation

  1. Dylan,

    Here is an article I wrote when I was the Wellness Counselor at Georgetown University. http://wellness.georgetown.edu/2013/06/05/walking-meditation-in-motion/
    Yes, walking can surely be meditation — meditation in motion. I so appreciate Thich Nhat Hanh’s explanation and practice of walking meditation. Blessings, Lisa

    • Thanks for the article! I’m reading it now. I spent quite a bit time listening to Thich Nhat Hahn several months ago, so I am sure some of his insights into walking as meditation have certain some of that has seeped into my own thoughts on the subject. I absolutely love his speaking style, allowing for pauses of contemplation. I would like to see more speakers take up that style, which presents difficulties in an ever speed-increasing society.

      You rock!

      • Dylan, yes, TNH has a beautiful presence who lives what he talks about. His writings and his teachings are deceivingly simple — yet not always easy. I love how they are for everyday living. His book, Peace in Every Step, is about how we can bring mindfulness into every step. I am encouraged and empowered by his life and teachings.

        If you are on the road walking a lot, another teacher I love listening to is Tara Brach. I find her way of weaving story, neurobiology, and meditation together in a way that is easy to digest — especially when walking or commuting.

  2. Pingback: Walking for Clean Water | Gems of Delight

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