Tag Archives: meditation techniques

Walking Meditation

May 28, 2010

Walking meditation is mindfulness in action. It’s a good alternative to sitting meditation, when possibly you are a bit agitated, or too tired after a hard day’s work, or simply when you have been doing a lot of sitting meditation and your legs need a stretch but you want to retain a meditative state of mind. It is a meditation that can be utilised in a variety of situations; walking in the forests, along a beach, through hills and mountains, or even walking on the way to and from work or college.

But traditionally it is a meditation which is properly practised in a more restricted, quiet area, where you are less likely to be disturbed by other people. This could be a secluded spot in the forests, in your garden, in a large room or hall, a quiet corner of a park, or anywhere you can find a straight path on a flat piece of ground and walk mindfully up and down. Alternatively you could walk continuously in a circle.

Depending on the weather conditions, and whether you are inside or outside, you can do this practice wearing comfortable shoes, or in bare feet.

Start standing on the spot. Become aware of your weight being transferred through the soles of the feet to the ground. Then begin to walk in the normal manner, at your usual, or maybe slightly slower than usual, pace. There is no need to change the way you walk.

Awareness of Body
First, keep the attention in the soles of the feet, being aware of the alternating patterns of contact and release. Be aware of all the different sensations in your feet as the soles contact the ground, and then as the foot lifts through the air. Feel the sensation of the stockings and shoes on your feet, or feel the touch of ground and air on your bare feet. Let your feet be as relaxed as you can. Notice the quality of the sensations in the joints of your feet and ankles. Ground your attention through your feet.

Then take your attention upwards through your lower legs, through the calf muscles and shins. Be aware of any contact with clothing, and the temperature of the skin. Be aware of the muscles working in the legs, releasing any tension you notice in the muscles.

Then, lift your attention to the knees, thighs and up into the hips and the area of the pelvis. Again notice feelings and movements in the joints and muscles, notice any contact with clothing, any changes in the temperature of the skin.

Take your attention into the lower back, feeling the sensations in the spine as you walk. Now turn your attention to the stomach, letting your awareness rise up through the chest, feeling the rise and fall of the chest with the breathing, to the shoulders. Let your arms simply hang by your sides and let them swing naturally. Feel the sensations of air flowing over the hands and skin as your arms swing through the air.

Times to Meditate
There’s no one best time to meditate. Many people find it useful to get up a bit early and meditate before the pressures of the day mount up. They want to prepare for the day so that things go well. Other people like to meditate before going to bed in order to “unwind.” Both can work.
Some of us see ourselves as a “morning person,” and prefer to meditate before breakfast. Maybe it’s not a good idea for us to limit ourselves with these labels — “morning person” and “evening person.” Even those of us with allergies to mornings can benefit from getting up a little early. The beneficial effects of twenty minutes of meditation before hitting the streets usually far outweighs the benefits of another few minutes in bed.

You might even want to experiment with meditating during the day. You could try shutting the office door, taking the phone off the hook, and catching ten to fifteen minutes of relaxing and stimulating meditation.

Choosing a Time to Meditate
Probably the worst thing you can do is to tell yourself that you’ll just “fit it in” at some point. That point will probably never come. You need to decide when you’re going to meditate and stick to that time. If you plan your week, then plan your meditation into your week to make sure it happens. It’s too important to leave to chance.

Places to Meditate
It can be good to have a particular place to meditate regularly, and to make that place a little special, meaningful, and beautiful. You can do this by having some pictures that remind you of why you want to meditate – you could use spiritual imagery or scenes from nature. You can have candles and incense. The ritual of lighting candles is quite soothing and grounding, especially if you do it with mindfulness, and in a spirit of reverence.

How much time will it take to to Meditate?
The results you get from meditation depend on how intelligently and creatively you engage with the practice, as well as how long you spend doing it.

If you were to spend as little as ten minutes a day meditating, then you would notice some benefits. But if you meditate at least 20 minutes a day you will notice more than twice the benefits than from a 10 minute sit.

You might think that your day is already pretty packed, but there are two things to bear in mind. One is that if our minds were clearer and more focused through doing meditation, then we’d be more efficient in what we do. That would more than repay the time we’d invested in meditating. The second thing is that if we fit the important things in (those things that make a real difference to our lives), then somehow we manage to still get a lot done.

If we try to fit our meditation in around other less important things, then it won’t work. There’s an infinite amount of unimportant things to occupy our time. Well, those things seem important at the time we’re doing them, but that’s because anxiety makes unimportant things seem crucial. If you meditate, then you can have more of a realistic view of what is important and what is not. That’s a powerful change to come from 20 minutes a day.

Of course, once you see the benefits of meditating, you may well want to spend more than twenty minutes doing it. Maybe you will end up meditating twice a day, or once a day for as long as forty or fifty minutes, and you will still get more done than you did before you started meditating!

Meditation is a way of exploring your experience. We can do this by focusing on different aspects of our experience such as sounds, or our body, or our thoughts and emotions. But there is also a rich world of experience waiting to be discovered simply by focusing on and exploring our breathing. Here are six simple exercises that can help you to uncover the subtlety of the breath.

Before doing any of these exercises it is good to prepare yourself by sitting comfortably, finding a position in which you are relaxed but alert, and gently closing your eyes. Bring your awareness into the present moment, spending a little time becoming aware of your body, feeling its shape and weight, its temperature, and the energy within your body. Then turn your attention to your breathing, making sure you are breathing through your nose.

And when you ready to finish the meditation exercise, take your attention into your body, and then gently let your awareness spread outwards into your surroundings, opening your eyes in your own time. Don’t rush, but keep a sense of spaciousness and calm as you prepare to move on to whatever you are going to do next.

Exercise one: exploring your experience of the breath
After spending a little time being aware of your body, bring your attention to your breathing. Take time to explore the sensations of the breath in any way you like. Just tune in to the experience of breathing. Keep a sense of lightness, even playfulness, as you find out how it feels to be breathing right now. Enjoy the sensation of breathing. Feel the life in your body as you take in air and give it back to the world around you.

Explore your breathing as you would a painting at an art gallery that appeals to you. Keep on looking, noticing more and more details, delving right into the breath, going beyond your usual level of awareness. And when you are ready to finish, bring yourself out of the meditation as already suggested.

Exercise two: following the breath into the lungs
As with the first exercise sit in a relaxed but alert position, and bring yourself into the present moment, and then bring your attention and interest to your breathing. Follow each breath from beginning to end. Feel the sensation of the in-breath in your nostrils; let your awareness flow down with your breath into your lungs. Be the lungs as they expand and fill with air. Experience the point at which the in-breath is complete, and then sense the first signs that the out-breath is under way. Flow upwards with the air, from the lungs to the upper chest, to the throat, and then to the nostrils. Rest your awareness at the nostrils until the next in-breath begins to flow inwards. Keep following the breath in this way for as long as you like, then end the session as before.

Exercise three: following the breath to the abdomen
Although air only fills our lungs, the process of breathing involves movement lower down in the body. The powerful action of your diaphragm causes movement in your belly, as air first flows into the body and then flows out. Physically, it can feel as if the breath is a wave that goes all the way down to your lower abdomen.

Prepare as usual, and as you bring your attention to the breath, you may find it helpful to start by taking two or three deeper breaths before allowing the breath to find its own rhythm. Now follow the breath by tracking the wave of movement it causes in your body. Follow the movements and sensations of each in-breath, from your nostrils all the way down to your abdomen. If you wish, you could place your hands over your abdomen so that you sense the movement more easily. Then follow the out-breath back to the nostrils again.

Meditate in this way until you feel it is time to stop. Then come out of the meditation gradually.

Exercise four: letting go of the breath
This exercise focuses on relaxation and letting go. Prepare yourself to meditate then follow your breath to your abdomen as before. As you focus on your breathing, pay particular attention to letting go and relaxing. Let go of any tendency to want to control your breathing. When you turn your attention to your breathing you may find that it is fast, shallow or uneven; and you might not like it like that, thinking it ought to be slow, deep and steady. Try to let go of any such judgements about your breath, just accept the way it is. Let the wisdom of your breath and your body guide you. Simply follow it with awareness wherever it leads.

Exercise five: being the breath
One of the aims of meditation is to help you to be in your experience, to be in the flow of your life, the flow of your breath. This has very positive benefits in terms of releasing energy. Follow the breath once again as it goes from your nostrils to your abdomen and back. But don’t follow your breath like a flight controller tracking a plane on a radar monitor. The aim is to reduce the distance between yourself and your breath, to be the breath. Be the flow of air that cascades into your lungs. Be the movement of your rib cage. Be the diaphragm as it expands downwards with the in-breath, and releases upwards with the out-breath. If you merge your awareness with your experience in this way, it will have a tremendous effect. Through this meditation you learn to become one with what is happening, to be in the flow of your life in an aware way.

Exercise six: keeping beginner’s mind
With this exercise continue to follow your breath down into your abdomen. As you do so, do your best to approach each breath in as fresh a way as you can. Often we can take the breath for granted. But in meditation we aim to experience everything with what Zen Buddhism calls ‘beginner’s mind’. When you are new to something you don’t know what to expect, so you are open to all kinds of possibilities and potentials. After all, life is new every second. The breath is constantly changing and no two breaths are ever exactly the same. Let yourself revel in your experience of the breath. Explore your experience as if you were having it for the very first time.

In the coming articles, we are going to explore different meditation techniques. In order to make the posts into a free guided meditation course, you may record yourself in MP3 or other audio format, while reading the articles.

This is a summary of the topics:
Guided meditation: free meditation course Part 1 – The Mindfulness of Breathing Meditation
Guided meditation: free meditation course Part 2 – Meditation Posture
Guided meditation: free meditation course Part 3 – Exploring the Breath
Guided meditation: free meditation course Part 4 – Meditation goals
Guided meditation: free meditation course Part 5 – Times and Places to Meditate
Guided meditation: free meditation course Part 6 – Mindfulness and daily activities
Guided meditation: free meditation course Part 7 – Metta Bhavana: Cultivation of Loving Kindness Meditation
Guided meditation: free meditation course Part 8 – Walking Meditation

Meditating, we get beyond the reflexive, noisy mind into a deeper state of relaxation or awareness. Meditating is both a component of many religions, and practiced outside religious traditions. Different meditative disciplines encompass a wide range of spiritual and non-spiritual goals; achieving a higher state of consciousness or awareness, developing and increasing compassion and loving kindness, achieving greater focus, creativity or self-awareness, or simply cultivating a more relaxed and peaceful frame of mind.

“Meditating” in its modern sense refers to Yogic meditating that originated in India. In the late nineteenth century, Theosophists adopted the word “meditating” to refer to various spiritual practices drawn from Hinduism, Buddhism, Sikhism and other Indian religions. Thus the English word “meditating” does not exclusively translate to any single term or concept, and can be used to translate words such as the Sanskrit dhāraṇā, dhyana, samadhi and bhavana. Meditating may be for a religious purpose, but even before being brought to the West it was used in secular contexts, such as the martial arts. Beginning with the Theosophists, though, meditating has been employed in the West by a number of religious and spiritual movements, such as Yoga, New Age and the New Thought movement, as well as limited use in Christianity.

Meditating techniques have also been used by Western theories of counseling and psychotherapy. Relaxation training works toward achieving mental and muscle relaxation to reduce daily stresses. Jacobson is credited with developing the initial progressive relaxation procedure. These techniques are used in conjunction with other behavioral techniques. Originally used with systematic desensitization, relaxation techniques are now used with other clinical problems. Meditating, hypnosis and biofeedback-induced relaxation are a few of the techniques used with relaxation training. One of the eight essential phases of EMDR (developed by Shapiro), bringing adequate closure to the end of each session, also entails the use of relaxation techniques, including meditating. Multimodal therapy, a technically eclectic approach to behavioral therapy, also employs the use of meditating as a technique used in individual therapy.

From the point of view of psychology and physiology, meditating can induce an altered state of consciousness, and its goals in that context have been stated to achieving spiritual enlightenment, to the transformation of attitudes, and to better cardiovascular health.