“Walking breath Meditation” peaceful mind and relaxation to the autonomic nervous system

“Walking breath Meditation”

Walking breath meditation is a wonderful Yoga practice that can be done right in the middle of daily life, and integrates body, breath, and mind.

You count internally with exhalation and inhalation, and align this with the steps you are taking while walking. So, for example, you may count 4:4. This means as you walk, you exhale while you internally count off 4 paces. At the end of this, you start to inhale, and count off 4 paces. You count 4 paces with exhalation, and 4 paces with inhalation. You literally speak the numbers as you count them, but only internally, silently in the mind.

Automatically, your breath becomes even. Automatically, your body and breath synchronize. Automatically, your mind synchronizes with the body and breath, by virtue of the internal counting. As you walk, you need to find the right pace that is comfortable, and in alignment with the speed you are walking. You might find that 2:2, 3:3, 4:4, 5:5 6:6, etc. is the optimum speed for you.

As you get proficient with even breathing, you can shift to two-to-one breathing with walking, such as 6 paces with exhalation, and 3 paces with inhalation. Again, you need to find the pace that is comfortable for you. This practice can easily be done when you are walking even one or two minutes from one place to another. It brings great benefits, right in the middle of daily life, including a calm, peaceful mind and relaxation to the autonomic nervous system.

Exhale

Inhale

Ratio

4

4

1:1

3

3

1:1

5

4

1.25:1

4

3

1.33:1

6

4

1.5:1

3

2

1.5:1

8

4

2:1

6

3

2:1

2

1

2:1

The Benefits of Walking Meditation

Walking meditation (cankama) has been one of the popular methods for mind development in Buddhism, ever since the Buddha’s time up until the present time, because of its advantages for both physical and mental health.Cankama literally means ‘steady walking’, that is to say, walking along with mindfulness (sati). Because of the many benefits of Walking meditation, the Buddha and his disciples used it regularly. The Buddha, even though already freed from defilements, still used Walking meditation for his physical exercise as evident in many written documents on Buddhism.

Take for example the biography of Yasa, describing the man who tired of being a householder and walked away from his home in Banares. While heading to Deer Park at Isipatana he was saying,

Here is very disturbing, here is very objectionable.”

At that time, the Buddha was walking back and forth very early in the morning, doing Walking meditation in the open air. Seeing Yasa at a distance, he sidestepped from the walking path and sat waiting on a cushion. He then said to Yasa,

Here is not disturbing, here is not objectionable. Come on Yasa, sit

down. I will teach you Dhamma doctrine.

Eventually, Yasa became enlightened by his teaching.

Another example is the Buddha’s Walk (Path) in Jeta’s Grove in Savatthi (Sanskrit : Sravasti), which at present is in the northeast of India. This Walk is still apparent as one walks near the Buddha’s residence (Gandha-Kuti). Anatha pindhika, a millionaire who was the Buddha’s Noble Disciple, had this Walk made especially for the Buddha at the time he built the temple. The Walk was made of bricks and was about 2 meters wide, 75 centimeters above the ground, and approximately 25 paces long. The temple was deserted for hundreds of years and the Walk stayed buried underground until 150 years ago when the British Government, which ruled India at that time, ordered the ancient remains at Jeta’s Grove to be restored. Hence, many of the ancient remains have been well-preserved until now. The author has visited this Walk four times while paying homage to the Buddhist sacred places in India.

Another example is the underground Walk in the temple in Deer Park at Isipatana in Banares. This Walk is very long and if one does not notice or is not told, then one may think that it is an underground tunnel. This Walk might have been built after or during the reign of King Asoka the Great, of India. It was solidly built especially for meditation practice and at the present time it is still in perfect condition.

All of the most famous meditation teachers in Thailand like to practice Walking meditation. Therefore in all meditation centers in Thailand, especially those in the forests, a Walk is built for each residence (monk’s hut) and it is to be used for Walking meditation by those who are undertaking meditation practice.

With all of the evidence mentioned above, the importance of Walking meditation to mind development in Buddhism becomes apparent. In the Numerical (Anguttara) Collection, Book of Five, the Buddha said that Walking meditation has five benefits as follows:

 1. One is able to bear long journeys (on foot).

2. One can endure making an effort.

3. One will be more resistant to illness or disease (having good health).

4. Food can be easily digested.

5. The concentration developed while walking lasts a long time.

1. One is able to bear long journeys (on foot). This means that one can endure walking a long distance, even when taking quick steps, because of the physical fitness that results from the regular practice of Walking meditation. We find that most of the meditation monks are able to walk for long distances because of their steady practice of Walking meditation. They are also bound to have long lifetimes because of their excellent physical health. Some people do not like to move their bodies and taking long walking journeys on foot, or even just a short walk, can make them feel tired. Therefore, those who are often tired and not healthy should try to practice Walking meditation and they will experience its good result of increased mental and physical health in a relatively short time.

2. One can endure making an effort. Walking meditation enables a person to make an effort. In this case, making an effort refers to the effort of developing the mind. Those who develop the mind by using only the sitting posture while meditating, without exercising, will become physically tense in a short time and they will be unable to endure for very long. However, those who develop the mind using both the sitting and walking postures alternatively, will then be able to endure practicing meditation for a long time. Using these two methods, one after the other, allows meditators to continuously practice for hours or even days and they quickly obtain good results in practicing mind development.

It is useless to practice meditation just once in a while, stopping for many days between meditations. The meditator must be diligent and must practice very often, like the saying in PaliGhatento Vayamanto—keep persisting, keep trying” which means that meditation has to be done often, continuously, regularly, at least half an hour to one hour a day so that the mind will become easily calm. Sitting meditation alternated with Walking meditation will enable one to make effort for a long time.

3. One will be more resistant to illness or disease. Whosoever practices regular Walking meditation is sure to be physically healthy. Modern doctors advise people to take morning walks in order to get physical exercise and to breathe unpolluted air. Walking can cure disease like diabetes and can also reduce many kilograms from the weight of someone who is fleshy. Walking actually makes a person have fewer diseases and this is the benefit that the Buddha found by himself more than 2500 years before the modern doctors. He not only used walking for mere physical pleasure like people do nowadays, but he also used it for the purpose of mental development. Walking meditation is good for both physical health and spiritual health.

4. Food can be easily digested. If one sleeps or sits after eating a meal, then the food that has been eaten is not easily digested because, without moving or exercise, one uses up only a small amount of energy, which is not enough to help in digestion. One will then experience dyspepsia, flatulence, and stomach pains. Walking meditation makes a person move a lot and as a result, the gastric juices are secreted and thoroughly digest the food, which promotes in the person both good health and fewer diseases.

5. The concentration developed while walking lasts a long time. This is the direct benefit of Walking meditation and those who practice it can confirm this result. The person who sits in meditation after walking first will attain the state of Samadhi quicker than those who sit before walking. This may be either because the blood circulation is better or because the mind is already under control of mindfulness before sitting. Someone who attains the state of Samadhi while walking will then stand with the quiet mind. If Samadhi occurs while walking and one begins to feel sleepy, it is suggested that one should change to sitting meditation so that a sudden peace of mind will arise. Some kinds of rapture may occur during Walking meditation such as the flowing of tears or the feeling of lightness in the body, etc.

Samadhi obtained in the sitting, standing, and lying down postures lasts only while one stays in the same posture and deteriorates easily when the body posture changes. Whereas Samadhi resulting from Walking meditation lasts a long time, even after one changes to other postures as the Buddha said:

Samadhi resulted from Walking meditation lasts a long time.

Since Walking meditation has both physical and spiritual benefits as already mentioned, Buddhism regards it as one of the effective methods for mind development which enables practitioners to have first hand experiences of its good result. Those who fail to obtain Samadhi through other methods should try to practice Walking meditation by which, if rightly and properly practiced, they are sure to get the good result exactly.

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