Introduction to Walking Meditation – Janet Style
“Peace and happiness are found where we are now, in the breath we
take now. Real relaxation and peace happen when the past falls away,
the future falls away, we stop our racing minds and walk into our own
~Janet Gallagher Nestor
Walking Meditation is a practice that can facilitate an awakening to
the awareness that joy is within each of us all the time. We learn we can
touch joy at any moment we choose to touch it. We no longer believe
joy is an occasional event that happens by some random circumstance.
We know where to find it. Because we know joy is an innate part of us,
we are comforted and able to trust.
I began practicing Walking Meditation long before I even knew of
Thich Nhat Hanh, the Vietnam-born Buddhist Monk who is the modern-day Father of Walking Meditation. My personal practice grew out of my love for Tai Chi and the practice of conscious walking that is included in Tai Chi instruction for developing balance and inner awareness. During my morning walks, I began to practice Tai Chi walking. Doing so shifted my focus from an “exercise” walk to a kind of walk that was not only physically refreshing and strengthening, but also emotionally and spiritually renewing. Below, I share my experience with the style of Walking Meditation that I developed for myself and used to strengthen my body, heal my spirit and change my life.
Walking Meditation (1996)
When I began practicing walking as a form of meditation, I was very focused on understanding and developing my own flow of Chi (energy).Moving meditation suited me perfectly. I walked my dog in the morningsand took much longer walks with her in a wooded area on weekends. Combining Walking Meditation with walking my beloved Dalmatian, Petie, seemed like a perfect idea and an exciting opportunity for companionship as well as personal growth and healing.
Listed below are the directives for Walking Meditation that I devised for myself. The Walking Meditation practice strengthened my spiritual journey, helped me open and expand my definition and perception of love, and strengthened my relationship with nature and with myself. I felt more secure and safe. I was able to work on my breathing, which was a deep physical health issue due to allergies. I was not combining my stepping with my flow of breath at the time, but walking to increase my breathing capacity, which in turn helped me to soften and relax my body.
Directives for Walking Meditation:
1. Create an intention for the walk. The various intentions I created for my walks are similar to these.
• To feel content and at peace at the completion of the walk
• To feel more deeply connected to myself and Creation
• To experience a peaceful flow of energy during the walk
• To embrace and honor nature and her healing qualities
• To softly increase my physical endurance
2. Stand quietly in Wu-Chi (emptiness) at the beginning of the walk. We stand in this way until we feel grounded and connected to self and nature. To do this, we stand with our feet about shoulder width apart, weight evenly distributed between each foot, knees slightly bent, back straight, hips tucked in and neck aligned with the spine. Our chin is slightly tucked so that our neck is straight. Our eyes have a soft focus. We breathe evenly and deeply, visualizing the breath as a silken stream. We allow our self to feel rooted into the ground, perhaps by visualizing roots growing from the bottom of our feet into the Earth. We give thanks to the strength of the Earth and to the strength within. As we stand, we check in with our self, observe and note any aches and pains, and observe and make note of our general state of well-being. Once noted, we relax and enjoy simply being present with Creation and our self. When we are content in the present moment, with mind quiet and spirit grateful for our connection to the universal energy flow that exists between all things, we begin to walk and fully enjoy our opportunity for mutual sharing.
3. We use the act of walking for focus. We notice our footsteps as they touch the Earth. We allow ourselves to become energetically aware of each step, the feeling of each step and how our body moves through each step. The noticing allows our mind to stay in the now and keeps it from reliving the past or pre-living the future. There is no problem-solving during this walk. We notice only our steps, our body while taking each step and the comfort and quality of our breathing. The secondary benefit of our focus is an increasingly more positive relationship with our body and its functioning.
4. Use the walk to connect with nature. There is great solace in the healing power of nature. Make friends with her. Notice new growth. Notice the sounds and smells and the life-force of nature. Notice the blossoms, the foliage and the animals that come into view. I made friends with a particularly large old pine tree. I stopped by to physically touch her and speak to her each time I walked. Her presence was particularly healing for me. I hope my appreciation helped her quality of life as much as she helped mine. I asked her if I could have a small piece of her magnificent old bark to carry with me. I placed it in my car to remind me of what is possible and to encourage my inward focus and connection to all that is.
5. We walk until we are at the end of our walk and then return to our starting location.
6. At the end of the walk we stand in Wu-Chi. We check in to see if we have achieved our intention. The check-in is not a pass or fail, but a noticing that provides insight. Has the walk helped to increase our feeling of well-being and our sense of connection to self and life? How do we feel physically in comparison to how we felt at the start of the walk?
Each of us has the opportunity to glimpse the depth of loving insight and experience available through a regular practice of meditation. Any restorative, awakening practice is an ongoing process. Our awareness increases a step at a time over a period of time and continues as long as we practice. Each day a new pathway of understanding opens up to us, and each of us has our own special window of experience that is important for our growth.