I want to share with you a walking meditation that I practice while doing my daily walk routine. It’s important to remember that the main technique that guides each type of meditation is the ability to focus only on one thing. For example, in mindfulness meditation, the object of focus is the breath, while in transcendental meditation the object of focus is a word or pair of syllables that lack literal meaning, whereas in guided imagery the object of focus is the voice of the facilitator and his verbal descriptions. There are of course many other different types of meditations, and each type has its specific focus object. In other words, meditation is based on the practitioner’s ability to focus only on one thing.
Mindfulness meditation is based on the idea of being mindful of the moment, to the present, and everything it embodies within it (read more on why you should practice meditation). Listening to input from the sense of sight, listening to input from the sense of hearing, etc. One can be attentive to all the senses at once, and at the same time be mindful of his heart as well. What I mean by that is to practice gratitude while paying gentle attention to everything that is going on around us. Gentle attention, so I practice it, is gratitude without getting carried away by the “dance of thoughts” that may arise naturally when we think too much. Stopping the monkey mind by selecting only one object we focus on.
In the next few lines, I’m about to tell you about one of the days when I practiced walking meditation. On hot Saturdays, I like to do sporty morning walks in Migdal Ha’Emek (Valley Tower). A picturesque and beautiful town in the northern district of Israel. I already have a regular route that I walk through, which passes between Migdal Haemek and Yafia village. It’s a route located next to a road that stretches for about 2 kilometers (1.24 miles). On my way, I pass through the Balfour Forest. The forest is decorated with Tabor oak trees, Israeli Pistacia, Carob, and Orchard trees – almond, fig, and strawberry. The forest is planted on an area that stands as of 2012 on an area of about 4,500 acres of land and is a real natural pearl for nature lovers.
Walking meditation in Balfour Forest
While performing my walking meditation there are some focus objects that can be addressed, thus improving your mindfulness and your full attention to the present moment. Here are my 2 focus objects, that help me in being fully immersed in the present moment.
Focusing on breathing
As with any mindfulness meditation, breathing is what you put your focus on. Mindfulness focuses on the breath as part of the ability to feel the present moment and experience it to its fullest. Focusing on the breath diverts background noises and allows the meditation practitioner to experience the “here and now” for all its spectacular colors.
Focusing on a distant object
In some cases, I find it difficult to concentrate only on my breathing. All the adrenaline that floods me makes it hard for me to concentrate solely on breathing. The alternative solution is to focus on a distant object. That is while walking I look at a distant object, and I keep focusing on it until I reach it. When this happens, over and over again, I pick up another distant object and focus on it until I get right next to it.
Focusing on a particular object is a wonderful experience. For example, the more I focus on a particular tree, the more I begin to notice the small details in the tree: colors become sharper, details brighten as I get closer to the tree, a distinction in the shadows that adorn the tree and the spectacular sun colors that sharpen as I approach it.
Focusing on a distant object has two side effects. First, the more you focus on something, it expands. In the example of focusing on the tree, my ability to be fully immersed at the moment expands, being mindful of all the details that have just been revealed before my eyes. Second, gratitude – the focus each time on a different object, reminds me time and time again how much I cherish God for being able to enjoy all the things that exist in this world and the amazing privilege that I have been granted to enjoy them. Similar to The Law of Attraction, the more you focus on positive thoughts, the more you attract positive outcomes; here too, the more you enrich your focus by looking at the beauty in the world, the more that beauty will expand and grow.
Studies on walking meditation
Studies on the elderly, type 2 diabetes patients, and nursing students all demonstrate a wide range of health benefits. Results suggest that there are numerous health benefits to walking meditation. One common link is a reduction or regulation of cortisol in the blood,[1-2] which is the body’s primary stress indicating hormone. While the body and mind are working harder, stress regulating factors decrease. One study of elderly women practicing walking meditation suggests mindful walking is somehow linked to decreases in depression and stress, in addition to increases in bone development. Another study based on Tai chi meditation speculates a link between walking meditation and the production of catecholamines, which are linked to the brain’s response to stress. Recent advances in medical science also suggest that promoting peace and mindfulness are linked to neuronal reconstruction. The act of walking peacefully and with intention is therapeutic and healing to the person who practices it.
Several studies have shown that anxiety can be reduced through sport and meditation. This is beneficial for young adults who have anxiety disorders . In 2017, university researchers experimented on young adults. The purpose of the experiment was to find what would help young adults cope with their anxiety. In this experiment, the young adults were split into 5 groups brisk walking, meditation, walking meditation, meditation then walking and sitting. The researchers discovered one common factor in reducing anxiety, which was the practice of meditation. 3 out of 5 groups that practiced meditation had the same amount of anxiety reduction. However, the two groups that did not make any changes is brisk walking and sitting. Therefore regular meditation, walking meditation, meditation, and also walking all have the same effects on anxiety.
In conclusion, walking meditation reflects two important principles in the philosophy of positive thinking: what you focus on expands and gratitude. The two principles I’ve described serve the most important purpose in meditation which is peace of mind.
- Jin, Putai (1992-05-01). “Efficacy of Tai Chi, brisk walking, meditation, and reading in reducing mental and emotional stress”. Journal of Psychosomatic Research. 36 (4): 361–370. doi:10.1016/0022-3999(92)90072-A. ISSN 0022-3999. PMID 1593511.
- Prakhinkit, Susaree; Suppapitiporn, Siriluck; Tanaka, Hirofumi; Suksom, Daroonwan (May 2014). “Effects of Buddhism Walking Meditation on Depression, Functional Fitness, and Endothelium-Dependent Vasodilation in Depressed Elderly”. The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine. 20 (5): 411–416. doi:10.1089/acm.2013.0205. ISSN 1075-5535. PMID 24372522.
- Jin, Putai (May 1992). “Efficacy of Tai Chi, brisk walking, meditation, and reading in reducing mental and emotional stress”. Journal of Psychosomatic Research. 36 (4): 361–370. doi:10.1016/0022-3999(92)90072-a. ISSN 0022-3999. PMID 1593511.
- Chatutain, Apsornsawan; Pattana, Jindarut; Parinsarum, Tunyakarn; Lapanantasin, Saitida (July 2019). “Walking meditation promotes ankle proprioception and balance performance among elderly women”. Journal of Bodywork and Movement Therapies. 23 (3): 652–657. doi:10.1016/j.jbmt.2018.09.152. PMID 31563384.
- Edwards, Meghan K.; Rosenbaum, Simon; Loprinzi, Paul D. (2018). “Differential Experimental Effects of a Short Bout of Walking, Meditation, or Combination of Walking and Meditation on State Anxiety Among Young Adults”. American Journal of Health Promotion. 32 (4): 949–958. doi:10.1177/0890117117744913.