Walking meditation is not so very well known in the West, but is a common practice in the traditional forms of Buddhism found in
Walking meditation is a useful alternative (or complementary) technique with regards to sitting meditation, the classical physical position for anapanasati briefly described in the previous post. In his booklet called ‘Walking Meditation’, Ajahn Nyanadhammo states that many monks and nuns have realized insight and enlightenment whilst practicing walking meditation. He also says that in the Forest Monastic Tradition every part of life is an opportunity to meditate, not only when doing sitting meditation. So, cankama can be used as an integrated aspect of Buddhist practice, allowing the various processes of life to be investigated and understood as impermanent, imperfect, and impersonal.
I personally find walking meditation effective for establishing mindfulness in the mornings, and Ajahn Brahmavamso has said that the Buddha himself used cankama early in the mornings (a lot earlier in the mornings than me!). There are many variations of walking meditation, but one simple method to begin with is the following:
- Find a suitable place for cankama. This can be outside, perhaps positioned between two trees as in the practice of forest monks, or indoors, say in a corridor. I use the corridor in my house, which is about seventeen steps long – in the forest tradition it’s often up to thirty paces long.
- Do cankama barefooted if possible, as this heightens the sensation of the feet touching the ground, which is usually the main focus of attention.
- Establish mindfulness prior to beginning to walk. This can be done by holding one’s hands in anjali (palm-to-palm, as in prayer) and reciting a brief Buddhist phrase, perhaps remembering the Three Refuges of Buddha, Dharma and Sangha.
- Holding one’s hands in front of one’s self walk at a comfortable pace, neither too fast nor too slow, enabling one to be mindful of each step.
- Keep looking about a meter and a half in front, avoiding looking at this and that.
- Focus awareness on the feet, noting the different sensations as each foot is placed on the ground and then rises from it, much as one might focus on the breath.
- When you reach the end of your meditation path, turn around and stand still for a few moments, reestablishing mindfulness before resuming walking.
- To begin with, do cankama for about fifteen minutes, longer if it’s comfortable. Eventually, half an hour to an hour will become possible without losing mindfulness.
Using walking meditation this way, we can lay the foundations of a steady and alert mind which can be of benefit away from the meditation path. We may find that there is an increase in the general alertness of our actions as well as with regards the feeling of walking itself. Then, wherever we are, we will be walking the Buddha’s Path of wisdom.