Special Topics

​Slow Walking Meditation

Practitioners normally perform walking meditation between sitting sessions during a retreat, in limited-sized spaces. Alternating practicing sitting and walking meditation helps us harmonize the body and mind. If we feel tired after meals or drowsy during the sitting, we can improve our digestion or keep ourselves awake by standing up and performing walking meditation. Depending on the tempo and function, you can either do slow or fast walking meditation.  

Slow walking meditation involves walking at an extremely slow pace, which helps us focus on the movements of our steps, while remaining undistracted by wandering thoughts and the external environment. This enables us to practice mindfulness, by being clearly aware of the every step we take. The steps for slow walking meditation   are as follows:
1. Upper Body: The posture of the upper body is the same as in sitting meditation. Keep the head upright and the chin slightly tucked inward. Straighten the back and waist without protruding your abdomen.
2. Hand Gesture: The right hand forms an empty fist with the index finger touching the thumb and with the three other fingers slightly curled inward, without touching the palm. The left hand holds the right hand, with the thumb placed on the top of the fist and the other fingers covering the back of the right hand. (See pictures a1& a2)

3. Hand Position: Keep the hands two-fingers distance from the abdomen, and positioned just above the belly button. 
4. Arms: Relax the arms and let them hang loosely. The upper arms and the lower arms form a 90-degree angle. (See picture a3)

5. Eyes/Face: Keep the eyes slightly open, looking at the floor ahead of you without gazing at anything in particular. Relax the face and smile.

6. Whole Body: Keep the whole body relaxed, from head to toe.

1. To take a step, slowly lift the heel, followed by the soles and then the toes. Feel the sensations of each part of the foot gradually leaving the floor. Move as slowly as possible. (See picture a4)

2. Feel your foot moving forward as you lower it toward the ground, approximately halfway past the standing foot, or no more than the length of the standing foot.

3. Slowly place the toes, sole, and heel on the ground. Feel how they touch the ground in sequence. (See picture a5)

4. When the whole foot stands firmly on the ground, feel the Earth’s gravity of as though it were a magnet attracting the feet.
5. After placing the moving foot firmly on the ground, lift the other foot using the same method and tempo.

6. To turn right, step forward with the left foot first. Then, turn the right foot 90 degrees to the right. Finally, turn the left foot to the right and step forward.
When practicing slow walking meditation, how do we keep the mind focused? One way is to focus on the moving foot, by being clearly aware of how it lifts, steps out, moves, and lands, as well as how we change feet. Be clearly aware of the sensations of the heels, soles, and toes moving at every moment. Make sure to stand steadily on one foot before shifting attention to the other.
An alternate method is to focus on the foot that remains still. While the other foot is still moving, pay full attention to the sensations of the foot standing firmly on the ground as though it were a rock. Once the moving foot lands firmly on the ground, shift your attention to it.
Choose the method that helps you concentrate the best. No matter which method you use, keep your steps flowing and continuous. The point is to settle the mind on the repeated movements. There is no need to stare at your feet; simply relax your whole body and keep your mind calm and stable. Rather than rush the pace of walking, make sure that your foot is firmly on the ground before taking another step. Every step needs to be solid and steady.

Resource: Issue 323 of Life Magazine, Dharma Drum Publishing Corporation
Translation: Hsiao Chen-an
Editing: Chang Chia-Cheng (張家誠), Keith Brown

Extended Reading:
Practice Walking Meditation to Experience Chan in Motion

​Fast Walking Meditation

Buddhist Circumambulation (Walking Meditation and Buddha Name Recitation)


See all the articles of the column, Walking Like the Buddha.