Zen Walking Meditation – Our Guide To Kinhin

I have taught Kinhin (traditional Zen walking) to many people in my private meditation lessons. Almost universally, my students find it grounding and relaxing. And it is also excellent for stress reduction.
As with other styles of Zen meditation, there are specific ways to practise. So, let’s take a look.

Guided Walking Meditation

Script

  1. Find a path approximately 40 foot in length.
  2. You can practice barefoot or wearing light shoes. Barefoot is best.
  3. 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.

    shashu mudra
    shashu mudra
  4. Begin to walk up and down the path at 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.
  5. 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.
  6. It can be helpful to label the parts of your movement. For instance, “Left foot lightly pressing on the ground,” “Stepping forward with the right foot.”
  7. If you struggle to focus, Ajahn Nyanadhammo from Dhamma Talks suggests using a mantra. He recommends the mantra “Buddo”. You may do this using Chankramana, which is when you synchronise the mantra with your steps.
  8. When you reach the end of the path, turn and repeat
  9. Keep your eyes down and do not focus on anything
  10. Find a comfortable pace, neither too fast nor too slow.
  11. Focus your attention on your body and the sensations in your body.
  12. Allow your attention to enter your feet and lower legs.
  13. 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.
  14. If you find it helpful, count each step. This can help you to stay in the present moment.
  15. Every so often, take some time to also meditate on your surroundings.
  16. Practise for 20 minutes.
how to do zen walking meditation and benefits

4 Taoist Walking Meditations

You might also like to try the following Taoist walking meditations.

1: Aimless Walking

To do this we first gaze around our surroundings and then begin 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.

2: Daoist Martial Walking

Daoist martial arts  include various forms of walking that are designed to improve martial arts. For instance, Taiji, Bagua, and Xingyi.

3: Dantian Pulling

Another form of Daoist Walking is Dantian pulling, which involves visualizing being pulled from the various dantian (energy centres) in the body.
There are also other forms of spiritual walking, such as Labyrinth Meditation, Pilgrimages, and “spiritual running” (Kaihogyo in Japan, and Lung-Gom-Pa in Old Tibet)

4: Body Scan Method

There is a modern adaptation in which we gradually scan the body while walking. This is based on Jon Kabat Zinn’s Body Scan meditation. We bring our consciousness to our toes, feet, ankles, lower legs, thighs, and so on.
Benefits Of Zen Walking+

9 Benefits of Zen Walking

1:   Improves digestion

My grandma used to tell me that I should take a walk after dinner. And she was right. It aids digestion. Of course, this is also true of a regular stroll, but why not meditate at the same time?

Plus, meditative walking stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system, the “rest and digest” system, and thereby reduces stress-related digestion problems.

2: Increases blood flow

Most people already know that sitting for too long is unhealthy. Mindful walking helps to get the blood flowing according to researchers at New Mexico Highlands University [1]

3: Reduces anxiety 

A 2017 study by Paul D. Loprinzi [University of Mississippi] published in the journal Health Promotion Perspectives showed that walking helps alleviate anxiety, especially if you combine walking with meditation. [2]

4: Depression relief

It is a well-known fact that exercise improves overall mental health, including helping with depression. Doing a meditative physical exercise just makes it even better, according to a 2014 study published in The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine[3]  

5: Improves blood sugar levels and circulation

It helps with diabetes according to a 2016 study in which participants practiced either regular or mindful walking for 30 minutes, 3 times a week for 12 weeks.

6: Improves overall well-being

Taking a walk in nature improves overall mental health. One 2018 study by the Center for Environment, Health and Field Sciences showed that 15 minutes of walking through a forest alleviates anxiety and improves mood. [4]

7: Improves sleep quality

Exercise improves sleep quality, and resarch shows that it doesn’t need to be an intense form of exercise. Kinhin may help improve sleep quality.   

 

8: Enhances balance

Meditative walking improves balance and coordination according to a 2019 study. [5]

 9: Helps you focus

Another benefit of Kinhin is that it helps us to focus. The sensations in the body stimulate the mind so we focus better.


 Consider doing it with bare feet

You’ll get even more benefits if you walk with bare feet. When bare feet touch the earth, they soak up the Earth’s negative ions according to the Journal of Environmental and Public Health [1].

Other benefits of walking with bare feet include:

  • Reduces sympathetic nervous system activity
  • Promotes parasympathetic nervous system activity
  • Improves the pain response
  • Improves heart rate variability
  • Reduces primary indicators of osteoporosis
  • Improves glucose regulation
  • Improves Immune Response
  • Reduces blood viscosity.

All this occurs through the process of earthing, which is why we have bare feet when performing Japanese forest bathing and Nordic hygge. 


FAQ+

F.A.Q

What Is Walking Meditation?  

Kinhin is a traditional form of Buddhist mindfulness with many health benefits. It is used in Chan Buddhism, yoga (through the teaching of Swami Sivananda and Swami Satyananda) and Theravada Buddhist monasteries.

What are the different types?

Walking is actually used in many different religions and spiritualities. Different spiritualities have their different names for their practicesIn Zen the term used is “Kinhin”. Zen monks practise Kinhin (walking meditation) between periods of sitting (Zazen). But it is also done in Korean Seon and Vietnamese Thien, Daoism, and sometimes in yoga.


How long should you do walking meditation?

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 that you probably spend a long time on-foot anyway. Simply decide to be mindful while walking. That way you get the practice 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 bodily movement.


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 it 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).


Can I practise in a group?

Yes! It is great to do it 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 mindful walk together.


Summary

As you can see by the instructions, walking meditation is basically mindfulness during a walk. And it is wonderfully beneficial. It takes your regular old stroll and turns it into a powerful mindfulness practice. And it provides many wonderful health benefits, as we have seen.

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By Paul Harrison

Paul Harrison BSc is a qualified meditation teacher who believes in genuine, authentic meditation. He has more than 15 years experience in teaching meditation and mindfulness both to individuals and to corporations.

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