Meditation helps. It may be a religious practice, but it is also part of many different therapies, ranging from Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Cardiac Rehab, and addiction treatments. While meditation may be “targeted,” with some particular goal in mind, meditation best accomplishes its purposes when the meditator does it just for the sake of meditating, without any particular goal in mind.
Perhaps the best way to practice meditation does not involve sitting, but a practice frequent among Buddhists called “walking meditation.” While one may meditate while walking in the woods or around a city block, it may be advisable to walk around in a circle somewhere, where the distractions will be minimal and concentration on breathing uninterrupted.
Walking around in circle, with minimal sensory stimuli, may enable you to enter the meditative state more easily than if you are comfortably seated, where the “relaxation response” may be doing more to calm your body than to focus your mind.
Walking has this benefit: we are the most sedentary society the world has known, and we sit for hours everyday, either at work, at meals, driving somewhere, or watching TV. Walking slowly around in a circle may do a better job for most of us in producing the calm that characterizes the meditative state.
There is abundant medical literature documenting the health benefits of meditation, beginning with Dr. Herb Benson’s The Relaxation Response and John Kabat-Zinn’s Full Catastrophe Living. Kabat-Zinn writes: “Walking meditation involves intentionally attending to the experience of walking itself. It involves focusing on the sensations in your feet or your legs or, alternatively, feeling your whole body moving.”
The famous French philosopher Jacques Maritain said: “Walking is a meditative habit unknown to Americans.” That was years ago, and by now, Americans have taken up the habit of walking for the sake of walking, sometimes walking in circles in their own backyards, or walking around the block, or around their own living rooms. Walking is touted for producing a variety health benefits. Add meditation to your walking, and you may find your personal tranquility index rising, your blood pressure falling, and your overall life-equilibrium restored. Walking is a meditative habit that can easily become part of your routine. It is part of mine, and although I have practiced many different meditation techniques, a period of “walking mediation” each morning helps me face the predictable and unpredictable challenges of adult life. It is one of those “little things” that can make a big improvement in the quality of your life!