Because of the way society is set up now, making sure that you’re walking enough on a daily basis can be difficult. Since we’re tied to our desks, have very little free time and live in cities that don’t allow much for walking peacefully, it can be hard to fit in a good walk. After all, the average American is only getting around 3 to 4,000 steps per day, falling well short of the 10,000 step recommendation set by the Center for Disease Control. Many researchers have said, though, that getting 7 to 8,000 is the sweet spot. Make sure you get the most of those steps, however. To do so, try walking meditation. Not only is it great for your physical health, but also your mental health.
What exactly is walking meditation and where did it come from? The original form of walking meditation came from China hundreds of years ago, with practitioners walking around a room with one hand clenched into a fist while the other hand is covering. In between each breath, a step is taken, and the speed of these breaths and steps is completely up to the person meditating. Some prefer to have very deliberate steps for full relaxation while others make an exercise out of meditating.
You don’t have to limit yourself to just one single room, either. If you want to try walking meditation for yourself, try to find somewhere outside that’s quiet. A place like a hiking trail is a good location, or really anywhere that allows you to get in touch with nature. The practice remains mostly the same no matter your location. You’ll want to walk a handful of steps while holding your breath, making sure that each step has you placing your heel on the ground first and then gradually shifting the weight so that the toes are last to leave the ground. You should be able to feel the weight shift in your feet.
After your determined amount of steps (or whenever you feel most comfortable for full relaxation), pause and stand still, breathing in and out as much as you want. Most that perform walking meditation will go back in the direction they came from after stopping and breathing, though you can continue to move forward if you wish. Either way, make sure that your focus is fully on your body and the world surrounding you. Feel the sensations in your thoughts from the weight on your foot to the balance you’re obtaining with each step.
You don’t need to spend all afternoon doing your meditation, as even just a few minutes can bring a lot of benefits. Studies have shown that walking meditation has been linked to a lowered chance of anxiety, healthier blood pressure and bones, as well as blood sugar control. When your mind and body are at ease, the health benefits are endless.
The late Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh was a notable supporter of walking meditation and lived to be 95 years old before passing away in 2022. “WYou have feet, and if you don’t make use of them it’s a loss and a waste,” he said. “Someone is telling you now so that in the future you cannot say, ‘No one told me that it was important to enjoy using my feet.’”