Meditation and Movement

Imagine you’re running on a treadmill at the gym. You might look at the clock from time to time, and think, “What time is it? When is this workout going to end?” When people exercise, they sometimes get bored or impatient.

But there’s a way to reap the health benefits of exercise, and make it less boring (and even fulfilling): You can also exercise your mind at the same time.

If you meditate while you run, you’ll open up to the present moment, which makes the exercise more pleasant. That hits two birds with one stone. You get healthier from exercising, and feel more fulfilled from meditation.

Practicing walking meditation is a great way to learn how to bring meditation and mindfulness into exercise and other movement practices. Typically, it’s easier to concentrate during simple activities, and harder to concentrate during complex activities. For example, when you’re cooking a meal, there’s a lot going on. That makes it harder to concentrate. It’s a little easier to concentrate if you’re just walking. This makes walking well-suited to meditation.

There are many ways to meditate, and you can do any of them while walking. One simple option is to pay attention to what you feel in your body. How are your arms swinging? What does it feel like as your feet hit the ground? Your mind might wander to thoughts about the past or the future, or to what you’re seeing or hearing around you. If that happens, simply bring your attention back to body sensations. You can make that more interesting if you challenge yourself to notice details you didn’t notice before. Be like a detective. As you’re feeling your arms swing, see if you can sense smaller and smaller sensations and how they feel. That can become really interesting.

Another option is to pay attention to the sounds that you hear around you. That can be fun because we often walk in places with interesting sounds, like cities or parks. There’s a lot going on, and it can be interesting to pay attention to that. As you pay attention to sounds, ask, what exactly are you hearing? What directions are sounds coming from? Are they near or far away? Are the sounds getting louder or softer? Just try to notice as many details as you can.

The main problem with walking meditation is that it can be hard to concentrate. One trick is to start your meditation in stillness. Before you walk, practice meditating while sitting or standing. Then, once you get some momentum going, you can transition into walking. That can make it easier to concentrate during walking meditation.

I’d recommend starting with ten minutes of walking meditation. If you’re already going on walks for twenty or thirty minutes, set aside ten minutes in your walk to try a meditation technique like the ones I talked about. Try that for a week. You might find you’re getting the hang of it and enjoying it. Then you can go from there, and add more time if you want to.