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I've read that things like aikido, yoga, swimming, running are not meditation. How is walking meditation different?

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Generally speaking, you want to stay away from things that have too many moving parts. In fact, the more movement involved, the less conducive something is to meditation.

There are basically two mental factors that have to be balanced in order to give rise to a meditative mindset. First, you need applied and sustained thought. Bascially, you have to pay attention to something. That could be something as simple as breathing or complex as swimming. The simpler the action, the easier it is to watch and concentrate your mind upon, but as your concentration develops, you can begin to work with more complicated actions. Obviously, in order to concentrate on something in a sustained manor, the action itself must also be sustained. It's fairly easy to keep breathing (I hope!) or continue walking. Martial arts exchanges in aikido tend to be over quickly and asanas can only be held for as long as your body allows.

Second, (and I think this is what the quote you read might have been getting at), effective meditation requires a relaxation of the body-mind. This is calm and settling (samatha) is a a keystone of all deep meditative practices. Sitting meditation is ideal for this, but any activity that allows your mind and body to settle will be effective (just not as effective as sitting!). Walking is a tenable option, but while practices like the martial arts, sports, etc. might give rise to applied and sustained thought, but they are not nearly as effective in allowing for this second aspect of settling. The sympathetic nervous system is just too engaged.

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I've read that things like aikido, yoga, swimming, running are not meditation. How is walking meditation different?

Could you cite the source or teacher who says this?

In my experiential understanding, and in general, in Buddhist philosophy, any action done mindfully is meditation. The goal of Buddhism is to be mindful of our actions all the time.

The Buddha goes so far as to say that it is not merely by reciting verses in praise of awakening, that we pay homage to the Buddha, but every moment we are mindful, we pay homage to the Buddha within us.

One can certainly practice running meditation if one's mindfulness is very strong.

Walking meditation is safe for the beginner who can observe the action of raaaaiiiissssssing his feet, and loooowwwwwweeeeering his feet, in many dimensions - the tug of the muscles, the raising of the hem of his garment, the brush of wind under the foot, the weight of the sandal as it hangs loose and so on.

I imagine if one was learning to observe like this in detail with an activity like swimming where rapid strokes are required, it can lead to a dangerous situation. As it is, it is common to see people unused to walking meditation stumble on their first attempt because they are so lost in observation, they forget to balance.

In Akido, and other martial arts, Mushin is a prized quality of mind.

  • I've learned a complete new type of playing football ("soccer" for the us-americans between us) after applying "mindfulness" in the moves of the feet with the ball, the rhythm of the rise&fall when kicked slightly or powerful, the bending of the back and so on (as Buddho mentions: perhaps the changes are not too fast but just capable by my sensual abilities - and this I've encountered having been >50 already). So I think many more things can be meditative, not only sitting, walking. One requirement is surely that the soul/mind/body is occupied with calmness, peacefulness not with bad stress. – Gottfried Helms Jul 14 '15 at 6:58
  • Indeed, one can connect very deeply with the body, and reach various vipassana ñañas using an activity like running or hiking. Perhaps not the highest ñañas, but up to bhanga ñaña is certainly possible in my personal experience. Then of course there are the Shaolin monks, some sects of which only practice kungfu - and no sitting meditation. – Buddho Jul 14 '15 at 7:57
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Dhamma Greetings Robin,

AFAIK, in Buddhist meditation one is involved with observing how the mind's attention moves from one thing to another. In the beginning of the training, to do so, a quiet, non moving body posture has great benefit. And even later, as an advanced meditator, sitting is the preferred bodily activity while deep meditation. In fact, there are stages of advanced Buddhist meditation, that one is not able to attain while moving around (everything beyond the third Jhana).

Now, if one is very sleepy and is not able to overcome the sleepiness with bringing up more active interest in the object of meditation (pītī), it can be helpful to do walking meditation. Then, you walk to and fro a pre-set path, where you don't have to care about the path and where the walking will be free of disturbance. But the main thing will remain to observe the minds activity.

Maybe now you understand, why activities like aikido, yoga, swimming or running are not suited very well for deep meditation.

In addition, here is an good article on walking meditation: Link

Best Wishes

  • Welcome to the site! To avoid the answer's being what's called a "one-line-answer" or a "link-only-answer" (if all answers were like that then this site would be nothing but a directory of hyperlinks) an ideal answer would quote a little bit from the reference, and/or specifically answer the question. For example, assuming that you know what "walking meditation" is and that the OP doesn't know, can you explain in a few sentences (in your answer) what's different about it, i.e. why other activities such as the ones listed are described as "not meditation"? – ChrisW Jul 13 '15 at 10:57
  • Writing slightly longer answers is one of the minor 'rules' (or more like 'guidelines for writing a good answer') on this site, – ChrisW Jul 13 '15 at 10:58
  • Dear Chris, thank you for the info. Be Well, – Mirco Jul 13 '15 at 13:48
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In walking meditation one tries to be mindful of the walking process, i.e. the movement of the feet (lifting, moving, placing, turning), the sensations of touch, wind and other elements.

In walking meditation the main thing we want to develop is mindfulness of the different phenomena that arises. It's about keeping one's mindfulness throughout the meditation.

This type of meditation is both slower and techniqally more simple than aikido, swimming or running thereby making it easier to keep one's mindfulness.

When one gets really good at it one can turn anything into meditation, e.g. the activities you mention. Brushing teeth, eating, climbing, doing office work, talking, watching a movie can also be turned into meditation. It depends on the skill level of the meditator and the pace and complexity of the activity than one wants to turn into a meditation.

The difference in walking meditation is the slower pace and less complexity in the technique thereby making this method more approachable when developing mindfulness while moving. It's more difficult to be mindful when moving around than when sitting still.

Walking meditation would be easier to begin with than e.g. running meditation or swimming meditation. In here it would be more difficult since the technique is more complex and the pace is quicker.

Lastly, here is an interesting article on walking meditation called "The Benefits of Walking Meditation" by Sayadaw U Silananda.

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Here is a great read on the difference between Insight and Calm Abiding (Concentration), notably Insight and Shamatha:

Mindfulness Versus Concentration (by Bhante Gunaratana)

Walking meditation is a form of calming the mind and one-pointedness at the given activity, sensation. You can divide it in multiple phases to focus on, typically, but only initially. So in walking that is:

  • Standing. Intent to Walk. Right foot moving. Left foot moving. Stopping. Intent to turn. Turning. (Repeat)

One-pointedness of breath splits it in three/four:

  • Breath in. Pause. Breath out. Pause/Space. (Repeat)

It is only so in the initial stage. Later on breath becomes one (it becomes phaseless), then disappears, then you just see the space of mind, then nimitta arises and then, if you are not afraid of losing Self - Jhana.

Mindfulness (especially in every day activity) on the other hand is close to Insight and therefore what Vipassana accomplishes, and this book explains the difference very well.


Note that there is also Zazen, and Zazen in my opinion a lot of times is a bit of both - insight and calm abiding.

Monks like Thich Nhat Hanh advise mind labelling while in Mindfulness, and that is turning every day activities (and Mindfulness) partially into concentration meditation that calms the monkey mind.

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