How to Do Walking Meditation

Have you ever been walking

for a period of time…lost in thought…and suddenly you look up and have no idea how you got there?

That’s not walking meditation…

…Well that’s also not exactly true.

That moment you come into awareness of your surroundings and become part of the present – that moment is walking meditation.

Now…shorten the gap or lengthen the period of awareness.

In Zen we practice walking meditation, also called kinhin.  Part of the time we walk verrrrry slowly paying close attention to walking.  Pick some aspect of walking.  Maybe it’s the pressure of your foot against the floor.  Maybe it’s the way your balance shifts.  Maybe it’s the sounds in the environment…or my personal standby…tinnitus, the constant ringing in my ears.  Concentrating on an anchor helps keep you present…in the moment.

Of course our minds don’t want to stay in the moment.  They drift off to fantasize about lunch, or worry about that bill coming up, or plan tomorrow’s work or a million other things from our personal drama factory that take us away from being completely present.

Then we catch our minds drifting and re-establish our anchor and the present moment.  We feel the pressure once again on the soles of our feet and the coolness of the ground…inwardly, I always smile with this re-awareness.

We also practice kinhin while walking at a normal, everyday pace.  Being present isn’t reserved for special occasions.  All positions, all activity, all non-activity is an opportunity for presence…for no separation…but that is another topic.

walking meditation feet
Walking Meditation with monks

When we do walking meditation in the Zendo…

we start by standing in front of  our mats (also called zabutons) and facing the center of the room.  The leader will give instructions about walking meditation before we start.

Clappers will sound and everyone turns to their right.

At this point we do a brief standing bow and place our hands on our solar plexus with the right hand on top of the left.

Then we step out verrrry slowly paying close attention to our anchor (like the pressure of our feet pushing against the floor.)  We continue this slow pace for 5-ish minutes.  Then the clappers sound again. We do a brief standing bow and start walking meditation at a normal walking pace for another 5-ish minutes.

The 3rd time the clappers sound is the signal to stop at our mat as we pass by.

Another bow and time for some zazen.