By Leo Babauta
After two weeks of the Month of Mindfulness, you’ve had some great mindfulness practice: sitting for 2 minutes a day (longer if you like, though it’s not necessary), and mindful eating for one meal a day.
These are two different forms of meditation, or mindfulness practice. This week, we’ll be adding a third — walking meditation.
This is a simple form of meditation that you’re going to enjoy. Do you already walk to the bus stop, or from your car to your desk? Do you walk to lunch? There’s probably already a 2-5 minutes walk you do each day, and you can use part of this walk for meditation.
Before we talk about how to do that, let’s talk about expanding our idea of meditation. Lots of people think of meditation as something you need to do sitting down, during a special time of day, on a special cushion or something. It’s not. You can meditate anywhere, doing anything. In fact, everything you do, from work to playing with your kids to taking a shower, can be a form of meditation. So in this month we’re expanding our idea of what meditation is to any activity where we practice mindfulness, or awareness of the present moment.
That can be anything. It can be sitting and doing nothing (which is the basic, most simple form of meditation), or it can be eating and not doing anything else, or it can be walking.
So this week, continue your first two practices. Continue your sitting meditation — you can stick with 2 minutes a day, though if this is getting easy for you, go ahead and meditate for longer. Five minutes, 10 minutes, even 15-20. I wouldn’t recommend longer than 20 unless you’re very experienced. But the length of meditation doesn’t matter this month — we’re focused on creating the habit. So 2 minutes is better than 20 minutes for creating the habit. Five minutes is also very good. Ten minutes is harder, though doable.
You’ll continue your eating meditation practice. This is an important practice that helps you be more mindful of your relationship with food and eating. Eating something you’re already very familiar with, and so mindfully eating is not a weird thing like going to a meditation hall is for some people.
And in addition to those, you’ll have one walking meditation session a day. Now, this is taking your mindfulness to a new level. Two practices a day for a couple minutes each time is one thing, but once you’re doing three practices, it’s a whole new ballgame. Now you’re expanding mindfulness practice slowly into your entire day, and it will have great consequences as you realize you can be mindful doing anything, anytime.
Here’s how to do the walking meditation session:
- Choose a walk you do each day â€” from your car to your desk, for example, or from home to your bus stop. If you work at home, you can just walk around your house, or go outside for a few minutes. You can walk around the office, or again, go outside.
- Focus on mindfully walking for just two minutes. If the walk happens to be longer, just do two minutes of meditation, and then let your mind wander the rest of the time if you like. If the two minutes seems too easy, go ahead and do more, but there’s no need for longer.
- As you walk, focus on your body and breath. Just as you do in sitting meditation, pay attention to your breath. Also turn your attention, after a minute or so, on your body: your feet as they touch the ground, on your legs as they move, how your torso feels, your lungs as they breathe, your neck and shoulders (are they holding tension?). No need to alter your walking in any way — just walk normally. You’re not walking in any special way, but instead just noticing. An advanced practice that you might try out is to be aware of everything around you, as you’re also aware of your body — expand your awareness to take in sights and sounds of your surroundings, but also hold your breath and body in the same awareness.
That’s it! It’s a simple practice, basically the same as when you practice mindful eating and sitting, but now on a moving activity.
You can see that we’re taking more complicated activities and turning our mindful awareness on them — first sitting, where you do nothing, then eating, where you are sitting but adding another component to the awareness mix, and now walking, where you’re moving and have other surroundings to be aware of. In this way, we’re slowly getting better at practicing mindfulness, and setting the stage for mindfulness in every activity.