How Walking Meditation Is Different Than Taking A Stroll
When I go for a walk outside, that’s a walk—not walking meditation. The meditation practice is very intentional, along a short, set path. You go back and forth, focusing entirely on the feel of your feet moving across the earth. The Zen teacher Thich Nhat Hanh says to, “Walk as if you are kissing the earth with your feet.”
Your object of meditation is the feel of your feet moving. So when your mind wanders, you actually want to bring it back to your object of meditation. Now, this is counter to what that study earlier in this post said is so great about walking and creativity: it allows your mind to wander freely. True, we do bring the mind back to its focus for the meditation, but I haven’t found this to be a creative hindrance because it’s working my flow muscle (That’s because what’s happening in your brain when you meditate is the same thing that happens when it’s in flow. I talk more about that here).
I’ve found that walking meditation gives me laser focus and calm. In fact, this same study I mentioned earlier about the connection between the free-floating mind while walking and creativity says that if you want laser focus, an ambling walk isn’t actually ideal for that, so walking meditation is PERFECT for you procrastinators or very distracted writers out there.
So, if you’re looking to clear your head, regain your focus, re-align yourself: a traditional walking meditation session could be just the thing.
If you really want to have your mind wander freely or play jazz with walking meditation, you can still do the traditional set up, but then allow your object of meditation to be what we call in the Insight Meditation tradition “Choiceless Awareness.” This means that you allow your mind to notice the different things around you: sound, like, a thought, a feeling. You stay with that thing until the next thing comes, and so on. In this way, you allow yourself the openness and expansiveness of a stroll, but you’re more intentional about the process.