Walking meditation

The cultivation of calm or tranquility and the development of concentration
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Sam Vara
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Walking meditation

Post by Sam Vara »

Is walking meditation ever prescribed or recommended as a precursor to sitting meditation - as a means to provide an initial level of calm or suppress thinking sufficiently to make the sitting easier or more profitable? I'm interested in sutta references, or commentaries, or even what practitioners can remember being told by teachers.
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mikenz66
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Re: Walking meditation

Post by mikenz66 »

Hi Sam Vara,

It's standard in Mahasi-derived practice, and (partly because it's how I learned, of course), I find that I can build concentration much better by walking before sitting. It also builds energy.

This sutta does mention enhancing samādhi by walking:
“Mendicants, there are five benefits of walking meditation.
What five?
You get fit for traveling, fit for striving in meditation, and healthy. What’s eaten, drunk, chewed, and tasted is properly digested. And immersion (samādhi) gained while walking lasts long.
https://suttacentral.net/an5.29
And some of the graduated training suttas talk about alternating walking and sitting:
Come, mendicant, be committed to wakefulness. Practice walking and sitting meditation by day, purifying your mind from obstacles. In the evening, continue to practice walking and sitting meditation. In the middle of the night, lie down in the lion’s posture—on the right side, placing one foot on top of the other—mindful and aware, and focused on the time of getting up. In the last part of the night, get up and continue to practice walking and sitting meditation, purifying your mind from obstacles.’
https://suttacentral.net/mn107/en/sujato
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Mike
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Sam Vara
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Re: Walking meditation

Post by Sam Vara »

mikenz66 wrote: Tue Jun 01, 2021 11:52 am Hi Sam Vara,

It's standard in Mahasi-derived practice, and (partly because it's how I learned, of course), I find that I can build concentration much better by walking before sitting. It also builds energy.

This sutta does mention enhancing samādhi by walking:
“Mendicants, there are five benefits of walking meditation.
What five?
You get fit for traveling, fit for striving in meditation, and healthy. What’s eaten, drunk, chewed, and tasted is properly digested. And immersion (samādhi) gained while walking lasts long.
https://suttacentral.net/an5.29
And some of the graduated training suttas talk about alternating walking and sitting:
Come, mendicant, be committed to wakefulness. Practice walking and sitting meditation by day, purifying your mind from obstacles. In the evening, continue to practice walking and sitting meditation. In the middle of the night, lie down in the lion’s posture—on the right side, placing one foot on top of the other—mindful and aware, and focused on the time of getting up. In the last part of the night, get up and continue to practice walking and sitting meditation, purifying your mind from obstacles.’
https://suttacentral.net/mn107/en/sujato
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Mike
Many thanks, Mike. Does the Mahasi practice involve any particular type of walking, or just walking at normal speed?
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mikenz66
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Re: Walking meditation

Post by mikenz66 »

Sam Vara wrote: Tue Jun 01, 2021 2:12 pm Many thanks, Mike. Does the Mahasi practice involve any particular type of walking, or just walking at normal speed?
It's generally encouraged to work up to walking very slowly. Personally, I start of just walking at a slowish pace, and as concentration and mindfulness builds up I slow down and pay more attention to detail, in particular to intention . And I spend more time standing at the ends of the path, before and after turning around. It then becomes possible to have relatively seamless transition to sitting. This (slow walking and transitioning to and from sitting) works best when the walking is inside, or very close by. As I indicated above, walking, and standing before you start walking, is an ideal place to notice intention --- as in intention to make the next movement, not overall motivation-type intention.

The other point about such walking exercises is that they are good practice for learning to pay attention to all one's actions, in any posture.

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Bhikkhu Pesala
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Re: Walking meditation

Post by Bhikkhu Pesala »

Chanmyay Sayādaw U Janaka used to say: “The slower you walk, the quicker you will get to nibbāna.”

Insight depends on deep concentration, not superficial concentration. Slowing down and noting the movements in detail aids deep concentration.

See The Benefits of Walking Meditation by the late Sayādaw U Sīlānanda.

At the main Mahāsi centre in Rangoon, the ladies used to practise walking mediation in a covered area open at the front close to the main gate. Often, Buddhist tourists would visit the meditation during their seven day rush around to see all of the main pilgrimage sites in Rangoon. I noticed that on first seeing the ladies practising walking meditation they would do a double-take, thinking at first: “Why are these meditators standing still?” Only on taking a breath and looking again did they realise, “They are not standing still, they are walking.”

The meditation instructors said that some meditators noted many parts to each step: Intending to lift the heel, lifting the heel, lifting the ball of the foot, intending to step forward, stepping forward, putting down the heel, putting down the ball of the foot, standing firm, changing attention to the other foot ...

It is noteworthy that the ladies practising there got excellent results because they obediently followed the instructions given by the meditation teacher, and were very slow and graceful in their movements.
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Re: Walking meditation

Post by DNS »

I have practiced at a Mahasi style center and there was more walking meditation there than probably any other group I have sat with. There was equal amounts sitting and walking. So if the initial sitting was 30 minutes, then it would be followed by 30 minutes of walking. And then it was 20 minutes of sitting, followed by 20 minutes of walking and then the Dhamma talk by the monk.
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Re: Walking meditation

Post by SarathW »

My one and only two day meditation programme conducted Ven. E.Vijithananda we only did walking meditation no sitting at all.
I found it was very effective.
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Re: Walking meditation

Post by Srilankaputra »

I think generally monks recommend, starting off with walking meditation for lay people. When the mind is prone to being preoccupied with thinking its difficult to gather it together and stay with a subtle subject like the breath.

But as the saying goes, there are hundred timbers to a cart. Sappayakarita is considered an important skill of a meditator. A broad understanding of supporting conditions for meditation. If I were to try walking meditation at around 2pm, the hottest part of the day, i am more likely to become hot and bothered rather than calm.

I have also heard that walking bare foot on the earth, balances the four elements. Bringing some ease to the body.

Wish you all success in all your endeavours. Goodbye!
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Re: Walking meditation

Post by waryoffolly »

See AN 4.12 ( https://suttacentral.net/an4.12/en/sujato) for another interesting example of walking meditation practice:
Suppose a mendicant has got rid of desire and ill will while walking, and has given up dullness and drowsiness, restlessness and remorse, and doubt. Their energy is roused up and unflagging, their mindfulness is established and lucid, their body is tranquil and undisturbed, and their mind is immersed in samādhi. Such a mendicant is said to be ‘keen and prudent, always energetic and determined’ when walking.

Carato cepi, bhikkhave, bhikkhuno abhijjhābyāpādo vigato hoti, thinamiddhaṁ … uddhaccakukkuccaṁ … vicikicchā pahīnā hoti, āraddhaṁ hoti vīriyaṁ asallīnaṁ, upaṭṭhitā sati asammuṭṭhā, passaddho kāyo asāraddho, samāhitaṁ cittaṁ ekaggaṁ, carampi, bhikkhave, bhikkhu evaṁbhūto ‘ātāpī ottāpī satataṁ samitaṁ āraddhavīriyo pahitatto’ti vuccati.
This is clearly "access concentration" or higher, depending on your view. So walking can indeed support powerful samadhi.

Also see AN 4.11 which describes abandoning unwholesome thoughts while walking: https://suttacentral.net/an4.11/en/sujato
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Re: Walking meditation

Post by pegembara »

Slow walking sounds like mindfulness immersed in the body -noting everything that is happening to the body moment to moment.
Should be aware of everything that is happening. Not just the breathing.
Mind is brought to the "present moment". Somewhat like what happens during rock climbing - “You are not in the mountains. The mountains are in you.”
"Furthermore, when walking, the monk discerns, 'I am walking.' When standing, he discerns, 'I am standing.' When sitting, he discerns, 'I am sitting.' When lying down, he discerns, 'I am lying down.' Or however his body is disposed, that is how he discerns it. And as he remains thus heedful, ardent, & resolute, any memories & resolves related to the household life are abandoned, and with their abandoning his mind gathers & settles inwardly, grows unified & centered. This is how a monk develops mindfulness immersed in the body.

"Furthermore, when going forward & returning, he makes himself fully alert; when looking toward & looking away... when bending & extending his limbs... when carrying his outer cloak, his upper robe & his bowl... when eating, drinking, chewing, & savoring... when urinating & defecating... when walking, standing, sitting, falling asleep, waking up, talking, & remaining silent, he makes himself fully alert. And as he remains thus heedful, ardent, & resolute, any memories & resolves related to the household life are abandoned, and with their abandoning his mind gathers & settles inwardly, grows unified & centered. This is how a monk develops mindfulness immersed in the body.

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Re: Walking meditation

Post by mikenz66 »

Srilankaputra wrote: Wed Jun 02, 2021 1:36 am I think generally monks recommend, starting off with walking meditation for lay people. When the mind is prone to being preoccupied with thinking its difficult to gather it together and stay with a subtle subject like the breath.
I definitely don't think of it as just a "starting off" practice, though that's how it is often talked about in some circles - as a bit of a break until you can get back to "real meditation".

For me, it is an essential part of my practice. It gives insights into different aspects of experience than I get from sitting. Particularly, as I said, it gives much more scope for observing intention.

In fact, one of my teachers commented that beginners are happy to do a lot of walking, as it gives them a break from sitting, which they find difficult and painful. But after some time, they build up enough suppleness, strength, and concentration, to find sitting relatively easy. At that point, some decide that walking is more tiring and troublesome, and they tend to abandon it. Which, in his opinion, is a mistake.

I would encourage practitioners to try out different approaches, and find one that works well for them. Some people find the breath an impossible object, for example, and find that focusing on bodily sensations, such as contact with the floor, works much better.

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Re: Walking meditation

Post by Srilankaputra »

mikenz66 wrote: Wed Jun 02, 2021 5:50 am
Srilankaputra wrote: Wed Jun 02, 2021 1:36 am I think generally monks recommend, starting off with walking meditation for lay people. When the mind is prone to being preoccupied with thinking its difficult to gather it together and stay with a subtle subject like the breath.
I definitely don't think of it as just a "starting off" practice, though that's how it is often talked about in some circles - as a bit of a break until you can get back to "real meditation".
I am kind of scratching my head. I am not sure how you arrived at the above from my comment, which I think is phrased in a much more open way. But no worries. I agree with you.

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Wish you all success in all your endeavours. Goodbye!
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Re: Walking meditation

Post by mikenz66 »

Srilankaputra wrote: Wed Jun 02, 2021 6:22 am
mikenz66 wrote: Wed Jun 02, 2021 5:50 am
Srilankaputra wrote: Wed Jun 02, 2021 1:36 am I think generally monks recommend, starting off with walking meditation for lay people. When the mind is prone to being preoccupied with thinking its difficult to gather it together and stay with a subtle subject like the breath.
I definitely don't think of it as just a "starting off" practice, though that's how it is often talked about in some circles - as a bit of a break until you can get back to "real meditation".
I am kind of scratching my head. I am not sure how you arrived at the above from my comment, which I think is phrased in a much more open way. But no worries. I agree with you.

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Sorry for the misunderstanding! I guess it was the phrase "starting off for lay people" that I misinterpreted as meaning that walking meditation was "just for beginners" and "not for monastics".

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Re: Walking meditation

Post by Srilankaputra »

mikenz66 wrote: Wed Jun 02, 2021 6:39 am
Srilankaputra wrote: Wed Jun 02, 2021 6:22 am
mikenz66 wrote: Wed Jun 02, 2021 5:50 am
I definitely don't think of it as just a "starting off" practice, though that's how it is often talked about in some circles - as a bit of a break until you can get back to "real meditation".
I am kind of scratching my head. I am not sure how you arrived at the above from my comment, which I think is phrased in a much more open way. But no worries. I agree with you.

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Sorry for the misunderstanding! I guess it was the phrase "starting off for lay people" that I misinterpreted as meaning that walking meditation was "just for beginners" and "not for monastics".

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Mike
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just in case; I am not a monastic and more of a beginner. :smile:

Wish you all success in all your endeavours. Goodbye!
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Re: Walking meditation

Post by Sam Vara »

Many thanks for your replies, all of which were interesting.

I am currently re-focusing on walking meditation, especially as a preliminary stage to my daily sitting practice. The monk who taught me a few years ago is back in the UK and we have made contact via Zoom, so this has encouraged me to look again at what he recommends for this type of practice.

I have done several different types of walking meditation since about 1984. The first one was part of a Japanese martial arts system, which was very slow and involved keeping the foot parallel to the ground and making a series of strictly defined stylised movements. Since then, I have done a variety of different techniques which were presented on retreats, mainly in the Ajahn Chah forest tradition. They have all involved moving slowly.

The technique I learned around 2016 is a lot faster - "a little faster than your normal walking" - which takes some getting used to. The mental focus is on the feet as they feel the ground, and a sort of mantra of "left, right, left..." The monk teaches this alongside mindfulness of breathing as the sitting practice, and this takes the form of controlling the length of the breath and focusing on different aspects of it as the practice progresses - based on the method taught by the Samatha Trust in the UK and elsewhere. When I have been on the Samatha Trust retreats, though, they have taught a much slower method of walking meditation with counting the steps, which corresponds to their method of counting to regulate the breath length.

Currently, the monk is encouraging me to start with the walking as a first stage, and then to sit and meditate. Like all forms of meditation I have tried, it is rather "hit and miss", but the hits are perhaps more frequent, and far more powerful when they happen. And the general idea is, I think, that of mastery; that one can train oneself to get better and better, and increase the hit-rate.
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