Walking meditation also called kinhin, is a powerful way to put mindfulness into action and learn to integrate it into daily life. While sitting meditation is extremely valuable and a crucial step toward learning to observe thoughts and quiet the mind, it is a passive experience. Walking meditation as a practice helps to bridge the gap between the rarified air of sitting meditation and bringing this mindful energy into “real world” activities. While walking meditation initially takes place in a monastery, garden or other tranquil space, the idea is for the practitioner to eventually be able to “meditate” in all areas of life; that is, to be mindful, present and appreciative whether sitting quietly in meditation or out and active in the world.
Basic Walking Meditation In walking meditation, practitioners focus on every sensation associated with the experience of walking instead of allowing their minds to drift, wander, obsess about the past, or worry about the future. The goal of walking meditation is the same as many forms of meditation — to focus on the timeless present moment. Walking meditation settles the mind as the practitioner “watches” the sensation of each foot as it touches the ground, the movement of their muscles and limbs as they walk, and the sensation of each breath, in and out.
Becoming More Present While this is the ideal, in the beginning stages, the mind will likely stray from the present moment from time to time while walking. If this happens, the practitioner is encouraged to just “watch” this happen without any judgment, then gently return their awareness to the present moment, back to the sensations of walking in the here and now. Over time, distractions and the “monkey mind” will exert less of a pull on attention, and the practitioner will be able to stay fully engaged and present in the activity of walking without any mind chatter. In this tranquil state, the “watcher” dimension grows stronger, and the blissful experience of “no-self” emerges. Thoughts, suffering and impermanence in life are observed, but not identified with. The eternal ground state of Being comes to the foreground.
Bringing Mindfulness into the “Real World” As the practitioner is better able to be in this peaceful, non-attached state while walking in a tranquil garden or setting, they will eventually be able to carry it forward into real-world situations: while walking to and from their car, while walking to the business meeting, or while walking to their child’s parent-teacher conference. Eventually, this mindful, peaceful state can be with them in the times between walking meditation as well — while driving, throughout their workday, and while at home with their family. Why not give walking meditation a try? It just might be the perfect way to bridge the gap between sitting meditation and your “real world” activities.