Walking Meditation

August 6, 2022

Nick after a lap around the third floor of Henrico Doctor’s Parham

We walk slowly, in a relaxed way, keeping a light smile on our lips. When we practice this way, we feel deeply at ease, and our steps are those of the most secure person on Earth. All our sorrows and anxieties drop away, and peace and joy fill our hearts, anyone can do it. It takes only a little time, a little mindfulness, and the wish to be happy. -Thich Nhat Hanh

Walking has been my preferred form of exercise since I quit running when my knees and ankles said, “no more” somewhere in my mid-20s. The best thing about walking is that I can do it anywhere, wearing almost any kind of clothing, and in any temperature. I need no gym membership and the only special equipment required is a pair of supportive walking shoes.

My favorite walks are along the beach, especially a deserted one with lots of shore birds darting in and out of the surf. I also love walks in the woods or near the James River. But most of my walks are in my neighborhood, frequently first thing in the morning or right after work. I use them for exercise and a way to let go of the days’ stresses. Over the pandemic, I used walks to connect with friends in a safe, socially distant way.

In my mindfulness lessons at school, I have taught students to do a formal walking meditation the way Thich Nhat Hanh suggested to his pupils. Often, I start by showing a video clip of Thich Nhat Hanh explaining how to walk slowly, counting, breathing deeply, and smiling. We then try it out in the library before taking the walking meditation to the hallway and to a courtyard outside the building. I am always astounded how a squirmy group of teenagers quickly become calm as they silently practice walking meditation.

My husband was scheduled for spinal surgery this week and in preparation, he was told to walk every day. We tried a walking meditation together at Deep Run Park the weekend before his surgery. He was much more distracted than my high school kids, especially by his pain. So, the morning of his surgery, we watched Thich Nhat Hanh teach a class how to do walking meditation. Just listening to Hanh was soothing to both of us as we waited for the time to drive to the hospital. Interestingly, Nick shared that he could hear Thich Nhat Hanh in his head as he waited for the anesthesia, and it was comforting to him.

Today, I have a new appreciation for walking after watching my husband learn to walk again post-op. He is one of the most stubborn people I know, and in this case, that has proven to be a good thing. Based on all we read and the pre-surgery trainings, we expected him to need a rollator and only to be able to walk around the interior of our small house for the first few days he was home from the hospital. Much to our amazement, the physical therapist had him walk the halls and climb some stairs less than 12 hours after surgery. She then asked him to try a lap without any support. He did it! So, now that we are home, we are taking slow mindful walks in the neighborhood 3 times a day.

Perhaps you will want to give walking meditation at try? There are lots of videos of Thich Nhat Hanh on YouTube and books and DVDs by him are available at your local library or bookstore.

Published by bmdavis1

I am a wife, mother of 2 grown sons, a school librarian and a certified yoga instructor. My hobbies include gardening, walking in nature and chasing around my two ornery cats.

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