There are several different kinds of walking meditation, but I was introduced to one at a Zen monastery In Buddhism, kinhin is the walking meditation that is practiced between long periods of the sitting meditation known as zazen.
In walking meditation, we certainly keep our eyes open and are less withdrawn from the outside world - although the walking can be done indoors. In my experiences, I have walked clockwise around a room and walked outside in woods. The hands are held in shashu (one hand closed in a fist while the other hand grasps or covers the fist) and each step is taken after each full breath. I have done it at a slow pace and at a brisk pace.
The practice appealed to me for several reasons. Right off, I enjoy walking outdoors. Second, I found it appealing that we needed to be aware of things outside of ourselves. I suppose that wind, sun, trees, nature sounds and manmade sounds like airplanes and cars can be viewed as distractions, but there were plenty of distractions for me in sitting meditation. It is certainly easier on the back, neck and knees.
I found that I could easily work walking meditation into my day, from the walk from the car to my office to the walk in the park at luch or the walk in the woods after dinner.
I looked at several books on the practice, including The Long Road Turns to Joy: A Guide to Walking Meditation by Thich Nhat Hanh.
He describes the practice, but also includes walking meditation poems and alternative practices. It is probably a change for many people to "walk not in order to arrive, but walk just for walking."
He recommends bare feet touching the earth as a way to better live in the here and now.
|Thich Nhat Hanh|
This practice is very old and not restricted to Buddhism. The term "circumambulation" means walking around a sacred object or idol. This circumambulation of temples or deity images is part of Hindu and Buddhist devotional practice (known in Sanskrit as pradakśina or pradakshinaṇā) but is also present in other religions, including Christianity, Judaism and Islam.
There are many books on walking meditation, but it is easy enough to begin uninitiated on your own or by reading an online article. It is, however, the kind of thing that can only be learned by doing.
This is not walking to get your 10,000 steps or as exercise or to get to any place. This circular path is done with attention to the walking - your steps, your breath as the metronome setting the pace, the path ahead. And, as with almost all mediation, you try to acknowledge and then dismiss the distractions.
For my "monkey mind," this last part is most difficult. It is hard for me in walking in the woods not to want to stop to examine a plant or stone or dismiss the water in the creek or the call of a bird.