In this tutorial we will look at the Zen walking meditation technique (Kinhin), and its benefits. This is a great complement to seated meditation s it gets your body moving.
Zen walking meditation techniques, or “Kinhin”, is a traditional form of Buddhist mindfulness that offers many health benefits. It is one of my favourite Chan meditation techniques, and is sometimes used in yoga too (mostly through the teaching of Swami Sivananda and Swami Satyananda). It is the primary practice in Theravada Buddhist monasteries.
The process is straightforward to understand; we simply apply the core concept of mindfulness to the process of walking. We focus the mind on the movement of walking. This increases the mind-body connection, heightens mindfulness, and boosts our mental well-being.
I personally believe that most people use walking as meditation anyway, whether they call it such or not. Most of us enjoy a stroll through a relaxing park or along the beach, and when we do we are usually being mindful. Such relaxing hike are in truth meditative walking, whether the individual chooses to see them as such or not. There is a direct relationship between walking and meditation.
Let’s take a look at Zen walking meditation technique and the many physical and mental health benefits that it offers. Or, if you’re new to Zen, get started with my introductory guide to Zen and its benefits.
“Beauty surrounds us, but usually we need to be walking in a garden to know it.” –Rumi
Kinhin / Zen Walking Meditation Technique Instructions
Here’s how to practice walking meditation in the Zen tradition. You might like to save this script for later.
- Find a path approximately 40 foot in length. If you have a garden, start by reading our supplementary guide to creating a Zen garden. This will help you to create a Zen space for in your garden, which you can then use for Zen walking meditation and reflections. It is better if your walking path is enclosed.
- You can practice bare foot or wearing light shoes. Barefoot is best because when the bare feet touch the earth they soak up the Earth’s negative ions.
- Place your hands in Shashu mudra position (see image below). Make a fist with one hand. Now lightly grasp that fist with the other hand. This is the Shashu mudra, which is one of the Buddhist mudras.
- Begin to walk up and down the path with a slow walking pace. You want to land your step on the heel and let the ball of your foot touch the ground before your toes.
- While walking, meditate on the sensation of movement in your feet and legs, everywhere from your toes to your pelvis. Also, be aware of how your mind instructs your body to move. If you look closely, you will feel the connection between intent and action. Meditate on that connection.
- There is a modern adaptation of the traditional Buddhist walking meditation in which we gradually scan the body while walking. We bring our consciousness to our toes, feet, ankles, lower legs, thighs and so on.
- It can be helpful to label the parts of your movement. For instance, “Left foot lightly pressing on ground,” “Stepping forward with right foot.”
- Ajahn Nyanadhammo from Dhamma Talks suggests using a mantra if you struggle to focus. He rcommends the mantra “Buddo”. You may do this using Chankramanam, where the mantra is sychronized with your steps.
- Take some time to also meditate on your surroundings. Smell the air, enjoy the colours of your meditation garden or walking space, use your senses to explore. Practice mindfulness while you walk.
- When you reach the end of the path turn and repeat
- Keep your eyes down and do not focus on anything
- Find a comfortable pace, neither too fast nor too slow. It is important to walk at the pace that you most feel the mind/body connection. Sometimes (when stressed, for instance) this pace will be fast. Other times it may be slow. Generally, the longer you spend Zen walking, the slower your walk will become.
- Focus your attention on your body and the sensations in your body.
- Allow your attention to enter your feet and lower legs.
- Feel the movement of each step and the way it feels in your feet. Feel each movement when taking a step. Be aware of the raising of the foot, the leg swinging, the foot returning to the ground and then the other foot taking over.
- If you find it helpful, count each step. Counting can help you to stay in the present moment.
- You can learn more on LionsRoar or the InsightMeditationCentre.
- You can also combine this method with breathwork. For Square Breathing it works like so. Inhale while taking four steps. Hold the breathing taking four steps. Exhale taking four steps. Hold taking four steps.
Note that these are the traditional Buddhist walking meditation instructions. You do not need to follow this tutorial precisely. What matters more in attitude. Aim to have an attitude of mindfulness when walking.
Vietnamese Monk and Zen master Thich Nhat Hanh says,
“When we practice walking meditation, we arrive in each moment. Our true home is in the present moment.”
There are also Taoist walking meditations, which use the following guidelines.
To do this we first gaze around our surroundings and then begin walking, stepping with no particular pace. The first few times around the path we meditate on the surroundings. Then we ignore the surroundings and walk aimlessly.
Daoist Martial Walking
Daoist martial arts (like Taiji, Bagua, Xingyi) include various forms of walking that are designed to improve martial arts.
Another form of Daoist Walking is Dantian pulling, which in involved visualizing being pulled from the various dantian, or energy centres in the body.
There are also other forms of spiritual walking, such as Labyrinth Walking,
Pilgrimages, and “spiritual running” (Kaihogyo in Japan, and Lung-Gom-Pa in Old Tibet)
I personally recommend starting with the Thich Nhat Hanh mindful walking technique, which is the easiest form.
Benefits of Zen Walking Meditation (Kinhin)
Zen walking meditation technique is one of the most popular forms of meditative-movement.
If you follow our newsletter you’ll know that there are many different active meditations, ranging from dance to tai chi, but one of the most popular is the Zen Kinhin method.
There’s something distinctly cathartic about walking, isn’t there? You put your runners, boots, or sandals on and head out the door, and you immediately feel a lift in your chest, an expansion, freedom.
It’s more than merely relaxing, though. There are significant health benefits of walking meditation. Research highlights the following key benefits.
1: Better digestion
My grandma used to tell me that I should take walk after dinner. And she was right. It aids digestion. Of course this is also true of a regular stroll, not just a mindful walk. However, mindfully walking benefits us more than a regular stroll because meditative exercises stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system, the “rest and digest” system, which can reduce the symptoms of stress-related digestion problems.
2: Increases blood flow
Most people already know that sitting for too long is unhealthy. Mindful walks help to get blood flowing through the body. 
3.: Reduce anxiety
Walking meditation benefits your mind by calming your mood and helping with anxiety.
A study in 2017 showed that walking helps alleviate anxiety, especially if you combine walking with meditation. 
4: Depression relief
It is a well known fact that regular exercise is beneficial for overall mental health, and can be helpful for depression. A 2014 study revealed that people who had depression observed decease in symptoms after doing walking meditation 3 times a week for 12 weeks. 
5: Improves blood sugar levels and circulation
A 2016 study revealed that practicing mindful walking is beneficial for people with diabetes. For the study, participants practiced either mindful walking or regular walking for 30 minutes, 3 times a week for 12 weeks. Walking meditation technique was found to be more beneficial than regular walking. 
6: Improves well-being
Similar to Forest bathing meditation, taking a walk in nature is incredibly beneficial for overall mental health. One 2018 study showed that 15 minutes of walking through a forest alleviated anxiety and improved mood. 
7: Improves sleep quality
Exercise improved sleep quality, and research shows that it doesn’t need to be an intense form of exercise. Walking meditation may help improve sleep quality.
- Enhances balance
A 2019 study indicates that practicing meditative walking could potentially increase balance and coordination, especially in older people. 
9: Easier to focus
When you’re feeling lethargic it can help to move gently and slowly. One of the benefits of walking meditation is that it helps us to focus. The sensations in the body can help stimulate the mind so we focus better.
What Is Walking Meditation?
As you can see by the instructions above, walking meditation is basically just mindfulness during a walk.
Zen walking meditation technique, “Kinhin”, takes your regular old stroll and turns it into a powerful Buddhist mindfulness practice.
And it’s just marvellous.
When you Zen walk, you focus your mind on the act of walking. This helps to silence your thoughts, opens your mind, and feel a tremendous sense of liberation which can only be described as freedom.
The way Zen walking meditation technique achieves this is by making us conscious of the freedom of movement. Whenever I practice Zen walking meditation, I am reminded of the freedom of my own body, and my ability to move freely and to go where I please. It is hard to explain precisely why it has this effect. I recommend simply trying it and experiencing it for yourself.
By practising Zen walking meditation technique, we become more conscious of the body and movement.
You may have heard of the term Body-mind.
When practising Kinhin walking meditation, we increase our body-mind connection, and we become more conscious of what we are doing with our bodies. This helps eliminate unconscious movements and promotes mindfulness of the body.
Walking is actually used in many different religions and spiritualities.
Different spiritualities have their different names for their walking practices. In Zen the term used is “Kinhin”. Zen monks practise Kinhin (walking meditation) between periods of sitting (Zazen). But it is also in Korean Seon and Vietnamese Thien, Daoism, and sometimes done in yoga.
Traditionally, Zen monks would walk clockwise around a room while holding their hands in a specific position. The position has one hand closed into a fist while the other hand grasps the fist. This hand position (or “mudra”) is called Shashu.
With their hands in Shashu position, Zen monks would walk slowly around the room, consciously focusing on the movement in their legs (similar to how you focus on your body when you do a body scan meditation).
I tend to receive a lot of questions on the Facebook and Twitter pages regarding Zen walking meditation. So, to help you out, I’ve created the following Frequently Asked Questions segment.
How long do you need to practice to see benefits?
The more you practice, the more benefit you will see. But of course, time is limited. You don’t want your practice to interfere with other activities you have going on in the day because then you will feel compelled to rush once you finish your walk (which is, of course, counterproductive). I find twenty minutes to be an ideal length of time, but anywhere between ten minutes and an hour is okay.
The good news is here is that you probably spend a long time on-foot anyway. Simply decide to be mindful while walking. That way you get the practise without losing time.
Should you increase the speed of walking while you practice?
You’ll naturally find a good speed as you practice. It’s best not to think about how fast you are walking, but rather to focus on the meditation itself. As you relax, you will likely slow down, simply because you are more aware of the process of walking itself.
Where are some good places to Zen walk?
Aim for places free of distractions. Nearby parks and footpaths can be useful. Provided you will have the peace to get into the meditation, anywhere is usually fine. Naturally, roads should be avoided.
You can technically do mindful walking anywhere. It is a matter of attitude. As the quote goes, “The man of Zen walks in Zen and sits in Zen” (Osho, Walking in Zen, Sitting in Zen)
But I don’t have the time!
One of the questions I get asked the most as a teacher is “How do you find the time to meditate?” Many people live very busy lives. Finding time is not easy. Thankfully it is possible to incorporate meditation into your everyday life without losing too much time. Meditating while walking is one way to do that.
Zen Walking meditation technique is an exercise which you can practice without losing time. Though Zen Walking Meditation is usually practised in a garden, it doesn’t have to be. If you are on your way to work and know a safe route away from roads, you can leave ten to twenty minutes early and practice Zen Walking Meditation on the way to work. The same applies for all other times when you are travelling. Simply leave a little early and take a safe route (avoid roads!).
Another great exercise is to do Zen Walking Meditation with your family or friends. You’re probably used to chatting away with family and friends, but spending some quiet time together and going for a walk is another great way of bonding. You’ll find that you feel much closer to friends and family after a walk together.
Zen doesn’t have to take much time. Monks may meditate for hours every day, but that doesn’t mean you have to. Simply look for some ways to incorporate meditation into your everyday life. Trust me, no matter your lifestyle you can find time for meditation. If you don’t think so, please read my new book: Zen And Now, it will show you precisely how to meditate wherever you are, whatever you’re doing.
Just use your regular walking as meditation.
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1: The Benefits of Meditation Walks, Timothy J. Legg, Ph.D, https://www.healthline.com/health/walking-meditation
2: Differential Experimental Effects of a Short Bout of Walking, Meditation, or Combination of Walking and Meditation on State Anxiety Among Young Adults, Meghan K. Edwards, MS https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/10.1177/0890117117744913
3: Susaree Prakhinkit, Siriluck Suppapitiporn, Hirofumi Tanaka, and Daroonwan Suksom.The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine.May 2014.411-416. https://www.liebertpub.com/doi/10.1089/acm.2013.0205
4: Effects of Walking in Bamboo Forest and City Environments on Brainwave Activity in Young Adults, Ahmad Hassan,1 Jiang Tao,1 Guo Li,1 Mingyan Jiang,1 Liu Aii,1 Jiang Zhihui,1 Liu Zongfang,1 and Chen Qibin https://www.thedailymeditation.com/ultimate-guide-to-forest-bathing-meditation-script-benefits-more