Walking meditation: meditating in motion!

December 13, 2022

Have you heard of walking meditation? This way of meditating while moving is also called contemplative walking or mindful walking. It can be practised any time and any place—in nature or in the city. Here’s how to make this simple, accessible practice a staple in your wellness routine.

What is walking meditation?

Walking meditation involves concentrating on your breathing and footsteps. It serves as a moment of introspection where you can develop a state of alertness, meaning a state where you can observe your thoughts, sensations and emotions while witnessing what is happening around you.

Breathing is central to this practice. You focus on your breath and your body in every step you take, giving your mind time to rest.

A contemplative walk is a way to stop living on “autopilot.” This practice happens in a state of mindfulness. It is walking with no destination and no goal other than to come back to the present moment.

Feet walk on a wooden path

How is walking meditation practised?

Walk while paying attention to your breathing and your body.

Consciously breathe in and out. Remain aware of your breathing, the first and last thing you will do in life. Breath is the thread that connects these two inevitable moments and that brings you back to the present moment, the place and time where everything is possible.

Breathing is directly tied to our autonomic nervous system (ANS). Inhaling activates the sympathetic division of the ANS, which releases energy outward and brings you to action. Exhaling is linked to the parasympathetic division of our ANS, which directs energy inward and activates your body’s ability to restore itself. This makes conscious breathing an excellent way to consciously access body functions that normally occur automatically.

Become aware of your body as it moves. Lift and lower each foot one after the other, from your heel to your toes. Be aware of your posture and every part of your body’s movement. Try to relax your shoulders, neck and jaw. Observe your muscle contractions, discomfort and imbalances. If some outside noise or idea distracts you, without judgment, bring your thoughts back to the rhythm of your steps and your breathing.

You can set aside a specific time for walking meditation or simply incorporate it into your everyday walking. Use these moments to inhabit your inner world without any particular expectation or goal. Simply focus of the act of being and accept what is happening within you.

A young woman breathes with her eyes closed in the forest

The many benefits of walking meditation

Walking meditation combines the physical benefits of walking with the positive emotional and mental benefits of meditation. This type of walking can:

  • Lower your heart and respiratory rate
  • Lessen anxiety and stress
  • Lower inflammation
  • Reduce blood pressure[1]
  • Improve circulation and digestion
  • Improve focus
  • Oxygenate your body and mind
  • Bring up pleasant emotions
  • Slow the wandering of the mind
  • Help you reconnect with yourself
  • Stimulate creativity

Walking also has an impact on symptoms of mild depression, as shown in a 2012 study by the University of Stirling in Scotland.[2]

The Augustinian Sisters

Walking, or ambulation, has been practised for many years within the Augustinian community. In 1903, one of the regulations of the Constitution of the Augustinian Sisters stated that all movement in the corridors needed to be silent. Despite not being required to do so by the regulation, the sisters used those moments of walking to pray. Another regulation, this one from 1923, invited sisters to go out every day and do some of their spiritual exercises outside. This regulation was especially aimed at sisters who were sick, meant as a way to take care of their physical and spiritual wellbeing.

Le Monastère today

The practices of the Augustinian Sisters are aligned with the walking meditation we offer every morning at Le Monastère des Augustines. It provides an opportunity to start the day with intention and attention, to contemplate the beauty around you and to take time for yourself.

Walking meditation is one of the movement and wellness activities offered at Le Monastère and is available for our guests and anyone who wants to join.

[1] WBUR NEWS, “Harvard Study: Clearing Your Mind Affects Your Genes And Can Lower Your Blood Pressure,” 2018, https://www.wbur.org/news/2018/04/06/harvard-study-relax-genes (accessed December 13, 2022) 

[2] UNIVERSITY OF STIRLING, “Researchers consider impact of walking on fighting depression,” 2012, https://www.stir.ac.uk/news/2012/00/depression-walking-review/ (accessed December 13, 2022)