As with all questions, there are multiple answers. Different people you ask will have learned a variety of techniques. And of course, they will tell you what has worked best for them.
Ultimately, you need to find your own way. And this will be any way that enables you to achieve your meditation goals.
In this post, I would like to share with you some of what I have learned during my 25-plus years of meditating in the hopes that it will help you find your own way.
How Should I Breathe During Walking Meditation?
The best results from meditation are always achieved when nothing specific is actively sought. A meditative state is something we achieve by allowing what is unnecessary to fall away… not by adding more rules and expectations to our already busy minds. Therefore, before you do your walking meditation, just set the intention to be ‘at ease’ and then begin walking. You will find, with a little time that you will quite naturally achieve a balanced and beneficial breathing rhythm.
Should My Breathing Match My Steps During Walking Meditation?
Many of us learned that we need to focus our attention on our breath as well as the physical sensations in our bodies for walking meditation to be most effective.
I tried this approach for a while but it didn’t work for me. Why? Because like everyone else, my mind is only capable of thinking one thing at a time.
I know many of you probably think you are super-capable multi-taskers….. however, while we may unconsciously be able to do several things at once, the human brain can only ‘consciously’ focus on one task.
So you can either notice your breath, then your feet touching the ground, then your spinal alignment, and then your breath…. etc. but not everything at once. And, really, this just creates more for the mind to cling on to, to seek out, to be consumed by…. and this is not what we are wanting from our practice.
It is the way we ‘feel’ rather than what we are thinking about that lets us know if we are in a meditative state or not. And we, normally what we are feeling is a result of the thoughts we are having…..
However, the object of walking meditation is just to be aware of walking, aware of any sensations, aware of our breath…. not to consciously think about any of them, but rather to be ‘an observer’ to the experience…..
…. and therefore, conscious thoughts on trying to match our breath to our steps in any way will defeat this purpose….. it just keeps our conscious mind engaged in trying to figure out if we are doing it right…. then we end up complicating the process, judging ourselves, and defeating the purpose of our walking meditation.
What Should I Focus On During Walking Meditation?
It’s far better to just walk, without purpose, and as much as possible just to be a ‘witness,’ an observer to the experience of walking….
I know in the beginning, this is not easy as we do need some guidance on how to do anything new. Meditation, in any form, is no different. However, when learning any form of meditation, it’s difficult not to get caught up in the rules, the ritual, and the dogma.
If you seek information, there is plenty available…. And you will be told that you need to do this, this way, and do that, another way, and you need to listen to this teacher or that one because their way is ‘the best!’
However, I’m happy to tell you that if you stick with meditation, you will find your own path… you will find the ways that work best for you, and you will be able to incorporate your ways into more and more aspects of your everyday life…. this is of course the greatest benefit of learning meditation.
To begin with, I suggest you experiment with different techniques to find what feels best for you.
The combination of sometimes focusing on your breath, your feet touching the earth, your body sensations, or your general feeling, will, with time, heighten your self-awareness. And you will find that you will naturally let go of the need to focus on anything….
…. and you will just be aware that you are observing yourself walking, without intention, without desire, without stress, and without thought…..
Your body will intuitively, and naturally find its ‘best rhythm.’ Your way will reveal itself to you…. And this is the feeling you are seeking, a coherent body and mind working together naturally, without interference from your ego…. without all the limitations and false beliefs you have been programmed with that prevent you from living a life of equanimity and self-awareness.
Your Ego Is Not Going To Make It Easy For You!
Unfortunately, we are indoctrinated from birth to be ‘achievers.’ And since achievement is based on ‘doing,’ it requires our conscious awareness….. We are literally forced to use our logical minds from a young age to prove our worthiness in this world.
And because of this, we build strong egos. Our egos become dominant and we end up relying on them for most of our daily tasks. They then tend to think they are important and indispensable. And this is why our ego strongly resists being ignored when we are wanting to meditate.
So when you are beginning any meditation practice, your ego mind, out of habit, is going to try to distract you, a lot! It’s always going to suggest you do things differently, question why you are doing this now, and suggest that you should worry about what’s for dinner, did you feed the cat, or pay the power bill…. anything but remain silent….
However, if you just continue and seek nothing, just be at ease and walk, simply aware of any physical, mental, and emotional sensations, without attachment, you will create a space between you and the events that are happening.
Please share your experiences or any questions you have in the comments section below. We can all benefit by learning what has worked for others.
Shared with the hope of making the world a better place, one soul at a time….