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How to Do Walking Meditation

How a simple practice can transform the ordinary into the extraordinary

How to Do Mindful Walking Meditation
Now that Summer is here, I am always looking for opportunities and locations to practice outside in nature. Vancouver offers plenty of options because we have a rich system of parks and outdoor spaces that are generally safe and well maintained.
Most of the time, when we are walking, we tend to ‘daydream’ or plan, or ruminate over a problem. But here is another way to use walking to bring a greater sense of relationship to ourselves and the world around us.
Traditionally walking meditation was used as a means of allowing Buddhist monks a way of practicing mindfulness while taking a break from long periods of sitting meditation. It is still used this way in extensive meditation retreats for lay people.
I think it is a useful practice because we can turn ordinary moments - like walking to the office or walking in nature - into moments of pure awareness that can transform the ordinary into the extraordinary. Walking meditation can become a deeply refreshing interlude in our busy lives.
Bring to your walking meditation the same attitude you would any meditation practice: with the intent to keep your mind in the present moment with an openness, curiosity to what arises without judgement. Start practicing just walking small distances - perhaps 25 or 50 yards, bringing your full attention to the body and the physical act of walking.
Step 1. Getting Started
Before you even begin walking, stop and take three deep cleansing breaths. As you do so, create the intent to put down the various concerns of the day. Take a moment to bring the fullness of your awareness into the present moment by noticing the quality of your inhales and exhales.
Step 2. Working with the Body 
Notice how the ground feels under each foot. Notice how part of the foot, like the heel or ball of foot contacts the earth. Pay attention to the sensations in the feet as you bring you attention to them fully. Keep the focus here for a few moments. Allow yourself to feel grounded, in contact with the earth (you could do this barefoot if conditions permit).

Starting slowly, to lift and move each leg, gradually moving your awareness to each body part in turn as it moves—ankles, calves, knees, thighs, hips, buttocks, abdomen—all the way up to your head. Notice the feelings, the sensations in each body part. Make each leg and foot movement slow and deliberate to give your attention time to scan the sensations in the legs as you move.
As you walk, you may notice all the muscles involved in keeping you moving—how the weight shifts, the joints bend, the arms swing, the breath goes in and out. You might notice how this normally 'unconscious' activity is an symphony of movement.
You may feel wind blowing of wind or breeze some parts of the skin or the warmth of sunshine. Savor those moments. Let that be an invitation - after a few minutes of bringing you attention to the legs and feet - to widen your awareness to how your whole body feels as it walks. Continue for a while walking with this whole body awareness. Note new sensations and movements in the upper body and how they are connected to lower body movements. Get a whole sense of the body.
Step 3. Internal 'Awarenessing' 
After you practice whole body awareness for some time you can turn your awareness to your inner environment –any emotions or possible thoughts (if any) that may be present. Simply notice what is present in a non-judgmental way. There is no need to start an internal dialogue about what you notice. Just observe.
Step 4. External 'Awarenessing'
As you move on, now expand your attention outward – to your surroundings and to yourself in relation to your environment. Are you crunching through leaves or twigs? Do you notice the movement or flight of birds? Perhaps you’re in the city, and you have to stop occasionally to let cars pass by, or you notice the scent of aroma of cut grass, or flowers.
Step 5. Enjoy The Deliciousness of Expanded Awareness!
Finally, expand your awareness of what ever is arising in the space of your consciousness. Take in the totality of the present moment in both the internal and the external environment– observing each in relation to the other.
Neither cling to nor being swept up in any one ‘thing’ that enters awareness. Cultivate a position as a curious, open yet detached witness. Begin to note of any subtler feelings that you notice in the body or space around you. Be attentive to minute or barely perceptible feelings of peace joy and delight that we might miss.
If you notice you are getting caught up in thoughts, judgements or daydreams, just notice that it has happened, You can stop walking briefly.  Take a deep breath and refocus on your present experience.
Walking meditation is just one of the ways to truly make meditation a part of your daily life. It’s a wonderful practice for those who are busy people and may not have extra time to set aside for sitting meditations.
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