When we think of meditation, it usually conjures an image of Buddha sitting with a serene smile on his face. But meditation doesn’t always have to be practised sitting down. You can practice moving meditations while doing almost anything: running, dancing, doing the gardening or cleaning, and while exercising or walking.
The practices of Tai Chi, Yoga, and all forms of martial arts, are also moving meditations. And in sport, athletes often have peak experiences while training or competing. This is because of the attention they bring to the body as it moves. Being totally focused and present in this way can even trigger a spiritual awakening.
In Zen, moving meditation is called kinhin and is usually practised in between sessions of sitting meditation, or zazen. It involves walking with full attention on every step, and the pace is either slow or fast. Kinhin is an extension of the practice of zazen and is usually incorporated into a whole routine in the zendo. But it can be practised on its own too. It’s a good way to ground awareness in your body and remain centred as you move – once you’ve got the hang of it.
- Brings the focus of mindfulness to walking
- Helps you integrate your mind with movement
- Helps you to slow down and focus
- Provides relief from long periods of sitting meditation
Zen walking can be practised indoors going round and round a room or through the house. Or you can practise outdoors, but you’ll need to be alone, unless the others with you are also practising Zen walking.
Decide where you’re going to walk before you start and map it out in your mind.
- Stand up straight and relax. Bring your hands together at your chest with your left hand in a loose fist and your right hand placed over it. Make sure your shoulders are relaxed and breathe evenly.
- Walk slowly along your chosen route. Take a half-step with every cycle of breath like this: (breathe in) place your right heel, (breathe out) place the right ball of your foot, (breathe in) place your left heel, (breathe out) place the left ball of your foot, and so on. This is incredibly slow and harder to do than you expect!
- Keep your focus on your breath and keep your eyes lowered, directed straight ahead on the path.
- If thoughts intrude, bring your awareness back to the breath and keep taking steps.
- At the end of the session, stop and walk normally for a few minutes, still focusing on your breath before returning to your day.
It has to be said that the first time I tried to do Zen walking I nearly fell over! It takes some practise to get it right and not wobble as you walk. The key is to slow down and don’t rush. Or you can practice walking a little faster and take one full step per breath.
However you do it, remember: there’s nowhere to go – you’re just walking.