Deepening the Practice of Walking Meditation

I wrote this post on my laptop while sitting in a sweet air-conditioned restaurant in southwest Minneapolis. I walked there from my house in 95-degree heat with high humidity. It felt like passing through a mile-long closet filled with steaming towels.

I felt drenched, hot, and happy.

What made this possible?

The practice of walking meditation.

As I negotiate the challenges of aging, my delight in walking meditation deepens. Practicing sitting meditation for long stretches is a lot less practical than it used to be. But walking is something I will do with comfort and joy as long as I manage to stay mobile.

If you’ve never tried walking meditation before, I encourage you to give it a spin. Like all forms of meditation, it allows you to take a microscope to your internal experience.

For me, what’s most useful is seeing in a direct way — moment-by-moment — the difference between physical sensations and thoughts about those sensations.

Thoughts about walking through 95-degree heat might include:

  • God, this is awful.
  • I still have half-a-mile to go.
  • I can’t stand this.
  • I’ll look all hot and sweaty when I get the restaurant—and probably smell bad, too.

If you’re willing to see those thoughts as mental events that arise and pass, you might notice that your suffering immediately decreases.

When you release your thoughts, what’s left over is the sheer physical sensation of heat and sweat. These are simply unpleasant.

Not tragic.

Not terrible.

Just unpleasant. And nothing more.

And think about it: If we can experience extreme heat without suffering, then what else is possible for us?

P.S. Kenneth Folk offers some sweet suggestions for walking meditation.