Walking Meditation


Image and info via Japanese Buddhism


The walking meditation practice consists of many steps or levels of proficiency. The total beginner will concentrate on which food is in front. For example, you will put the right foot first and you will mentally say “right”; move the left one and say “left”. Keep on doing this for at least 10 to 15 minutes.

Your steps should be short as not to lose balance and not to go too fast. This is not a military walk. If you have balance problems at first, run your hand along a wall as in the very first picture.

Do not look around you as you will get distracted and your mind will wander. Do not look at your feet for the same reason. Instead, you should aim to look four to five steps ahead of you; just enough to know the immediate terrain you will walk on.


After a few days practicing for 10 to 15 minutes, you will become better at concentrating your mind on which foot is in front. It is now time to add more things to be aware of.

If you look in Step 2 in the picture above, (the one with the numeral 2) you will notice 2 steps. It is simply to be aware of the movement of the foot. At this step will will only care for 2 movements: lifting and placing.

So, your mental chatter will sound like: “right, lift, place; Left, lift, place” and so on.


Now that you feel confident in Step 2, we will add a single component to your step: moving.

At this point, you can, if you wish so drop the left-right mental note but is not bad to continue using it. For convenience, I will drop it here.

Again, look at step 3 in the picture for a visual reference. Your mental message will be:” lift, move, place, lift, move, place.” Be careful not to go too fast here, especially if you dropped the left-right.


Let’s add one more thing. In addition to lift, move, place, we will insert “heel up” at the beginning of the sequence. It will then look like this: “heel up, lift, move, place. heel up, lift, move, place.” Take a short pause between each movement, just long enough to say what you are doing.

I admit that my style of walking meditation is a tad more rigorous than this. There is something about adding “more things to be aware of” that seems antithetical to Zen practice.  I prefer to focus on less if I can help it or focus directly on my breath or a koan.  It is a personal choice or dependant on the tradition how fast or slow you walk and what you meditate upon but koan practice seems to work better with body movement for some reason.  A brisk pace keeps the mind from wandering and Mu can be explored.

Walking meditation exists in a limbo hovering somewhere between zazen and the meditation we experience in everyday experience.  It serves as a bridge between those two worlds.  According to Aitken Roshi, “kinhin” means “sutra-walking”, the sutra that is walked rather than read.  A realization that you discover on the pads of your feet.  An experience of the Dharma outside of the scriptures.

So just sit.

Just walk.

Don’t worry if you look Buddhist or not.  It is your sutra to read, not anyone else’s.  You can’t walk the path with someone else’s feet.

5 thoughts on “Walking Meditation

  1. I’ve found that exercise in general is an extremely useful ‘meditation’ tool, both before and during. Now to find the time, and then do it……

  2. Thanks for sharing this. I love walking meditation. I find that if I practice walking meditation before I spend time sitting that the depth and clarity of my seated meditation is usually greater. There is something about engaging the body that, for me, allows my mind to focus on my breathing that much better. In another month or so I will be going on a camping retreat with my Zen Center and we will spend a lot of time in walking meditation. I am really looking forward to the experience.

  3. No problem! I try to link to and reference any material I post. I only wish there was an english version but it was helpful with the captions.cheers!

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