Walking meditation

Getting ready for walking meditation.

  • The inviting of the bell is the signal for us to stand up and arrange our chairs in the centre of the room. This creates a island of chairs for us to walk around. We then stand in a circle facing inwards (towards each other).
  • When everyone is standing and still, a second sound of the small bell signals for us to bow to one another and turn to our left so that we are now in a circle facing clockwise around the room, our left shoulders to the outside walls.
  • On the third sound of the bell the walking meditation practice begins, as described below.
  • To end the walking meditation session there will be another sound of the bell. At this point we do not stop walking. This sound of the bell lets us know that we are on the final circumambulation of the room and should stop by our original place when we reach it.
  • Once everyone has stopped walking and is standing at their original place in the room there is a further sound of the bell. At this point everyone bows to one another, takes their chair and resumes their sitting position, ready for the next session of meditation.

What do I do in walking meditation indoors? Kinh Hanh literally means slow walking in Vietnamese. It is the form of walking meditation conducted in the meditation room. We refer to it as Kinh Hanh to distinguish it from Outdoor Walking Meditation.  Kinh Hanh is a wonderful meditation which is central to our mindfulness practice.

Usually Kinh Hanh is integrated with sitting meditation practice in the meditation room. It offers us the experience of the whole Group moving in mindful unity together in the meditation room.

When we practise Kinh Hanh our breath is coordinated with our steps. When we hear the bell to start we take an in-breath and make one step with the left foot. On the out-breath we take another step with the right foot. Then we begin the cycle again, the left leg always co-ordinated with our in-breath and the right leg always coordinated with our out-breath.  Throughout we are continually aware of the body and relaxing the muscles of the mouth in a gentle smile: “Breathing in, I am aware that I am breathing in; breathing out, I smile.” Our body flows in a continuous movement in harmony with our breathing. We are aware especially of the contact of our feet with the ground, and the wondrous nature of the present moment: “Breathing in, I dwell in the present moment; breathing out, I know it is a wonderful moment.” We hold our head still, focusing our attention about five feet ahead of us, but we are very aware of the Group. If we find that we need to slow down or speed up we alter the length of our steps; we do not aim to change our breathing which stays relaxed and light.

As always the key ingredient in this practice is awareness. Kinh Hanh is best practised in a spirit of celebration and joy. It helps the whole Group if we remember to smile.

What do I do in walking mediation outdoors? Outdoor walking meditation is a wonderful way to renew our contact with nature. It gives us a chance to refresh the body, to dwell in and appreciate all the aspects of our environment; the earth, the air, trees, sunshine, each other and even sometimes the rain.

The key to the practice of walking meditation is mindfulness. Dwelling in the present moment we are fully aware of our surroundings, of our breath, and the precious contact of our feet with the earth. Our lives often seem to be bound up in getting somewhere and reaching some future goal. In walking meditation there is no destination. We walk in order to walk; we have already reached our destination; it is the here and now; we can move slowly, relax and smile. “Breathing in, I dwell in the present moment. Breathing out, I know this is the only moment.”

The practice of outdoor walking meditation is very simple and very profound. As with Kinh Hanh, we coordinate our steps with our breathing, but this time we take several steps for each breath. The number of steps we make depends on what we find comfortable. Many people find three paces for each in and each out breath works well. As we step we can silently recite a short gatha to help us. This can be as simple as: “in-in-in: out-out-out”, each word representing one step. There are many such mindfulness verses that we might find useful. We may wish to compose our own to help us. Another example is “With-every-step: I kiss-the-earth.” If we are conducting walking meditation as a group then periodically there will be a sound of a hand bell. This is the signal for us to stop walking and breath in and out at least three times. We look around us, breathe, and appreciate our surroundings.