The Essence of Walking – Mary Maddux

Walking meditation can be just as profound as sitting meditation, and has the advantage of bringing the meditative experience into our activity. There are a number of different walking meditations. Our variation is informal and easy. It allows you to be more present in your body and in the present moment. The simple experience of alternating steps with the left and right foot naturally helps create a meditative state.

There is a tremendous richness of experience to become aware of as you walk. The body loves movement, and will reward you with pleasure if you pay attention to how it feels! So much of the time we are caught up in our mental worlds — thinking of the past or future, planning, imagining… Paying attention to the body as you walk will help you to enjoy simply being alive. (Although there are sitting meditations in which you pay attention to the body, it is easier to do so when the body is in motion. This is another advantage of walking meditation.)

Where and when. This meditation is best done outdoors. We recommend setting aside at least 20 minutes for your walking meditation, and not trying to combine it with anything else like going on errands or walking briskly for exercise. Let this be a walk just for meditation so that you can sink into the experience with your undivided attention!

How to start. Before starting to walk, spend a little time while still standing still. Allow your awareness to be with your body. Take some deep breaths, inhaling deep into the belly. Put your full attention on the sensation of breathing. Then allow the breath to return to normal and notice it going on its own for a little while. Now bring your awareness to your body, noticing how your body feels as you are standing, and becoming aware of all the sensations going on in your body.

Now begin walking. Walk at a relaxed, fairly slow but normal pace. Pay attention to the sensations in your body as you walk. It is natural to find your attention drawn to the sights around you as you walk, but keep bringing your attention to what is going on internally.

The idea is to have your attention on the physical experience of walking. If the mind starts getting caught up in thoughts, easily bring your attention back to the experience of walking. Notice how the body feels in great detail as you walk. The entire body is involved in the act of walking — from alternation of the left and right foot to the swinging of your arms and hips.

Notice how the soles of your feet feel — the contact they make with your socks or shoes, the textures of the fabrics touching them, the way they feel as they bear the weight of your body and the sensations in them as your walk along. Feel the entire foot, being aware of how it moves as the heel is placed on the ground, and then the movement rolls to the ball of the foot and toes. Notice how it feels as the foot lifts and moves forward. Allow your awareness to move up through every part of the body, noticing the sensations as you walk. Gradually scan all parts of your body as you bring your attention to the ankles, skins, calves, knees, thighs, hips, pelvis, back, chest, shoulders, arms, neck, head.

When you become aware of tension anywhere in the body, let it go. Allow that part of your body to relax. Allow your ankles, belly, shoulders, arms, neck — all of your body — to relax. Let your hips swing loose. As you do this, the walking will become more enjoyable.

You can scan your body randomly, moving your awareness from place to pace in your body, or you can systematically scan your whole body going from the soles of your feet to the top of your head noticing the sensations of walking. The most important thing is to keep you awareness on the sensations in your body, easily bringing it back when your mind has wandered.

Variation: Keep your attention on the rhythm of the walking — the alternation of left and right foot. Simply notice the experience of left-right-left-right motion. Keep bringing your awareness back to this experience when the mind wanders in thoughts or distractions of the environment.

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12 responses to “The Essence of Walking – Mary Maddux”

  1. talesfromthelou says :

    Hi Otove, Lou here from Talesfromthelou. You and Tashi have inspired me to create a zenish blog. I need excellent and relevant content. May i please re-blog some of your posts, here and there ? Of course credit and links will be given to you, and I will not mess with the posts integrity. Lou at

  2. amoonfull says :

    Great post. I tried walking meditation a few months back. I have only done it once. I should definitely do it regularly. It was an amazing experience. Thank you for this guide. You always provide insightful material for the growth and development of us all. Cheers 🙂

    • otove says :

      The part not mentioned in the article is the importance of sight. When walking it is easy to get distracted so try to maintain broad focus not letting they eyes settle on any one thing. You will definitely notice some improvements in concentration!

      • amoonfull says :

        It makes total sense.

        You know what, this has sparked some great reflection on my part. I’ve been inspired to write my own post about my experience. Thanks bunches 🙂

  3. Kathara says :

    Mmm, long hikes in a dark forest…. don’t know if it can be catalogued as meditation but my mind wanders always wanders off and then I end up with wet feet because I stepped into a brook by accident (or worse, a dead mole). I find hikes are really great for mental drafting of stories.

  4. Alex Jones says :

    The human body loves activity, this is a good form of meditation. Added by walking in nature, beach or forest assists in the meditation.

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