There are several benefits to meditation both for our physical and mental well-being. These benefits include: reduced effects of stress, improved concentration, better sleep, enhanced immune system, and a deeper spiritual connection. Many individuals find it gives them a great sense of peace in an ever-growing frenetic world. It also offers an opportunity for self-reflection and personal growth.
Walking also has several benefits both for our physical and mental well-being. Interestingly enough these benefits mirror to some extent those for meditation, particularly if one is walking outside in nature. In today’s society more and more people are taking to walking as a way to increase their physical activity thanks to devices such as the FitBit. However, not much thought is being given to the mental benefits that can accompany a walk.
Time appears to be a factor in an individual’s decision to develop a meditation practice as well as an exercise routine. With daily demands, squeezing in valuable time for one’s self can be difficult. Combining meditation and walking can be helpful to that end. Why not participate in both activities at the same time?
Learning how to meditate while walking is key though. Many people believe that when you meditate you drop into a trance like state, which would be detrimental if walking. Walking is an activity you should remain somewhat aware of your surroundings. While it is true that one can go deeply within during meditation, this does not always happen. A person does not have to drop down into a deep trance in order to gain the benefits of meditation. I would like to share with you my own first experiences in engaging in walking meditations. It is my hope through sharing my experience that you may learn from my missteps and perhaps pick up some tips to incorporate into your own walking meditation routine.
A couple years ago, I was tasked with an assignment to engage in five meditative walks that last an hour a piece. I set out to do my best. The rules seemed simple enough. Walk outside for an hour without music or company. Journal the experiences after each walk and make assessments as to any transformations that may have taken place. The walks were to take place over the span of three weeks.
I embarked on this project and found that Mondays were the better day for me to set aside an hour for individual walking. I would like to note that I am a walker and have a regular walking partner. I did not want to change that schedule too much, so I decided to just use five consecutive Mondays. I typically walk 3-4 miles each time I go out. When with my walking partner there is lively conversation, and when I walk alone, I do so to music. I am also an avid meditator. I meditate at least once a day if not more. Typically my meditation sessions are around a half hour in length sometimes more, sometimes less. I do get myself to a pretty deep trance like state when meditating and often converse with my guides or other spirits when in meditation. So, I meditate and I walk. I had thought this assignment was going to be a piece of cake.
My first walk was in early October on a familiar route at a familiar time. I found that without the conversation of my walking partner or music in my ears, my mind had nothing to focus on. Therefore it went wild and focused on everything. My mind is a multitasker. I often find it difficult to quiet if I am not engaging in a deep meditation. I dared not put myself in too much of a trance as I was walking on roads and needed to be somewhat alert and upright. I thought perhaps my issue stemmed from walking in the dark (I walk before sunrise.) rather than daylight. In daylight I could focus on visual cues around me helping my mind to become quiet.
On my second walk, I found that using my surroundings as a focal point helped to some extent. I did become distracted by spirit activity around me, which I felt was not the purpose of this walking assignment. While using items in my surrounding area as a focal point helped my mind stay a bit empty, I found the walk to be boring and very long. It was not enjoyable. I could not believe I was having such a hard time with an assignment that seemed so in my wheelhouse. I decided that since I was supposed to journal after the walks, I would focus on a general theme, or stem, for my journal on my next walk to see if that helped.
I embarked on my third walk once again on the back roads of my neighborhood. I had chosen a journal stem of “This walk gave rise to the thought…” I struck out positive I would be successful and quickly noticed I was having difficulty. Too many thoughts this walk was giving rise to! I then had an epiphany. I was using the expectation I have for my usual meditation sessions for a walking meditation. I expected myself to be the perfect meditator, or at least my vision of what a perfect meditator was. I needed to give myself some leeway here. A meditative walk has to be different from one that I usually engage in as there is so much around to stimulate the senses, visually in particular. Perhaps a momentary thought, so long as it stays within the moment is allowable on a meditative walk. I was pretty elated to come to this conclusion about myself and looked forward to instituting new expectations for the last two walks to see what would happen.
How wonderful it was to go on my fourth walk. I walked a familiar route at a familiar time. I enjoy walking in the early morning before the sun comes up. I found that on this walk I was able to remain in the moment. I contemplated several ideas, but mainly they centered on my place and purpose in the world. I found that I returned home peaceful and happy. I was trying too hard in my prior walks. If I allowed myself to “just be” I had a whole different experience.
My last walk for the assignment I did in the daylight. I wanted to try my newfound attitude toward walking meditation during a different time of day to see if it made a difference. While I did not get very contemplative like the last time, I did find the walk to be interesting. What I first noticed was that I did set a purpose, just a little, at the start. I typically meditate before a client shows up for a psychic reading to see if I get any messages. Since I was not doing my typical meditation, I did set the intention that I would be open for visions or messages should any spirit wish to give them during my walk. I did receive a couple of visions, and after that I tried to fall back on being in the moment. Interestingly what happened was that I began to hear my footsteps as if they were coming through an amplifier. Could this be my way of staying in the moment? I found that I did not have deep and transformative thoughts while on this walk, but I still experienced a sense of peace and fulfillment upon my return.
The walking meditation assignment was enlightening for me. I would have benefitted from reading Thich Naht Hanh’s book The Long Road to Joy: A Guide to Walking Meditation before beginning the walks. I thoroughly recommend this book to anyone. Thich Nhat Hahn accomplishes informing the reader all about walking meditation in short easy to read passages. But neither the length nor the ease with which it can be read, in no way diminishes the profound effect this book can have on a person. I wish I had read it before embarking on my walks and journaling them. I believe I could have incorporated the breathing techniques and use of repetitive words into my walks for a whole different experience. After reading this book I find that when I walk now, whether it is in silence or with my music, I do so with gratitude and purpose. I notice more, feel more, and find myself more at peace upon returning from a walk. This little book made a big impact on my walking meditations.
As we teach in our meditation classes at Serenity Grove Wellness Center, there are many ways in which to meditate. I have meditated in silence, to music, while playing a bowl, listening to gongs, while making art, as well as walking. If you have never tried a walking meditation, give it a try. The experience can be very enlightening and the benefits of engaging in both walking and mediation are valuable. Remember to make your meditation experience your own, let go of expectations you may have, and try to “just be”.
Love and Light!
**For those of you who are interested – my specific journal entries for the five walking meditations written about in this blog follow.**
Date: Monday, October 6, 2014
Time: 5:00 – 6:00 am
Activity: This early morning walk took place on the back roads in Coventry near my home. The walk is approximately 2.5 miles long. It is a route I walk three times a week with a neighbor. This morning I am walking it alone.
Comments: I find it very distracting to walk without my music. The morning sky is nice to look at as I can see the stars. I notice that it is difficult for me to keep my mind from multitasking on this walk. Numerous times I found myself planning my day, writing ads for the business, and making to do lists in my head. I am unsure why I am finding it difficult to get into a meditative state while walking when I can do it so easily while sitting. Without the music to focus on, or a friend to talk with, my mind is left to wander and instead of emptying, I find it filling up. Maybe it is because I am meeting with Diana today to start my experience with expressive art therapy that I can’t seem to settle my mind. I am not sure how this exercise will go in future walks, but I need to figure out a way to have these walks to be meditative.
Date: Monday, October 13, 2014
Time: 11:20 – 12:40
Activity: The walk today took place on a rails trails path in Bolton. The direction I took on the path led me into Vernon. My walk was just short of four miles in length and led through woods. While I passed a few bikers and walkers, I was basically by myself.
Comments: Walking in daylight affords me the opportunity to look more closely at my surroundings. My intent was to try to focus on my surroundings and take in the scenery around me hoping to keep my mind from multitasking. What I decided to do was to pick a point on the horizon and focus my eye sight there and watch the tree or rock or whatever my marker was come closer to me. This helped me trance out a bit allowing a couple of spirits who decided to join me the opportunity to chatter and impress their thoughts onto me. One was a small boy who was quite carefree. I was too slow and he ran on. Another was, I believe, my mom, although no words were spoken, the energy felt so familiar and comforting. I entertained their presence for a bit, but then tried to focus back on my walk. It is virtually impossible for me to keep my mind empty while walking. On my next walk I am going to try one of those stems to see if that will help.
Date: Monday, October 20, 2014
Time: 7:00-8:00 am
Activity: The walking route today takes me on back roads in my neighborhood. This is a different route than I normally take as it leads me through a golf course. This is a 2.5 mile loop. I will be using a journaling stem to help foster more awareness in my meditative walks.
Comments: Today’s walk gave rise to the thought that I am a perfectionist. I realize that I am not so much a perfectionist when it comes to other people or their work, but I am for myself. I found that once again I was becoming frustrated with my inability to not multitask or “think of anything” while on these walks. I decided to take some cleansing breaths and count them while walking. This helped and allowed the thought that it is ok to let my mind think during these walks. It would be inappropriate to put myself into such a deep meditative trance state that I can get to when sitting, as I would most likely fall or wander into the middle of the road. Part of my mind did need to be “alert”. Once I reframed my idea of “meditating” for myself, I found it easier and freeing to just be in the moment. Meditative walking for me is to be in the moment and nowhere else. If I get a message or connect, then so be it, but that is not the overriding purpose. I found pleasure and peace with this idea. I am looking forward to my next walk to see what comes of it.
Date: Monday, October 27, 2014
Time: 5:00-6:00 am
Activity: This walk took place along the back roads in my neighborhood in Coventry. It is a route I typically walk with my neighbor, but today am alone. The walk started in the dark but ended in morning light.
Comment: So this was quite a different walk than the other. This route is known to me and I do it pretty much on autopilot which makes it perfect for a meditative walk. My intent was to just be in the moment and I was. Upon leaving my home I found that I focused on the night sky initially. I contemplated how small I am, we all are, in comparison to the grandeur of the universe. I entertained the idea of alien life forms and recalled the many times I have seen UFO activity. I was brought back to my earthly surroundings by an early riser on his way to work. Once the car had passed, I began to notice sounds and sights. First were the many orbs I witnessed moving about in the woods on both sides of the road. I figured these orbs were individuals that were possibly engaged in astral projection. Ahead of me I saw a spirit of a man crossing the road. I have seen him before, always appearing in a form of white mist. I sense his gender rather than see the mist as a man. I hear owls screech, a pack of wild dogs or coyote making noise in the distance and the brush move as a small animal moves about. Again I am struck with the notion of how small I am even in comparison to the life around me. This got me thinking about my journey and purpose. Does it make a difference in the grand scheme of things if I follow my soul’s true purpose? I was spiritually slapped when I began to think this way. My main guide was there immediately to affirm that what I do in this life makes a difference. I need trust in that and not doubt.
Date: Monday, November 3, 2014
Time: 8:00-9:00 am
Activity: My walking route is taking my on the back roads of my neighborhood, but through the golf course again. I will run into less school bus stops this way. The loop is approximately a 2.5 mile walk.
Comments: This morning I have a client scheduled for an hour psychic reading. Normally I would meditate beforehand calling in any spirit who wanted to give me a message for the client ahead of time to join me in meditation. Typically I do get messages this way even before meeting the client. Today, though, is my last scheduled meditative walk, so I skipped my usual morning meditation. As suspected, I was not joined by any spirit for my client on my walk as I did not engage in a deep trance like meditation, but I was pleased to receive some images that I am sure I will see later relates to my client. Something interesting happened on the walk today. I found myself hearing my footsteps. I mean, I know we hear our footfalls when we walk, but this was amplified. It was as if I was listening to them through earphones. I wondered if my ears were trying to find a focus so to speak since I did not have music in my ears to listen to? I have also been asking my higher-self to allow more clairaudience for my psychic abilities, perhaps this is the start of that? In any case, I found that to be interesting and certainly kept me in the moment. I did make the decision that I prefer early morning walks when it is still dark out if I am on my back roads. If engaging in a meditative walk during the daylight, I prefer a wooded path.