Instructions for Zen Walking Meditation [Kinhin]
- Find a path approximately 40 foot in length.
- You can practice barefoot or wearing light shoes. Barefoot is best.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.”
- Ajahn Nyanadhammo from Dhamma Talks suggests using a mantra if you struggle to focus. He recommends the mantra “Buddo”. You may do this using Chankramanam, where the mantra is synchronised 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.
- 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. This can help you to stay in the present moment.
- Practise for 20 minutes.
Taoist Walking Meditation Techniques
Daoist Martial Walking
Body Scan Method
9 Benefits of Zen Walking Meditation (Kinhin)
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, mindful 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 the blood flowing through the body according to researchers at New Mexico Highlands University 
3: Reduces anxiety
Walking meditation benefits your mind by calming your mood and helping with anxiety. A 2017 study by Paul D. Loprinzi [University of Mississippi] published in Health Promotion Perspectives 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 published in The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine revealed that people who had depression observed a decrease in symptoms after doing walking meditation three times a week for 12 weeks. 
5: Improves blood sugar levels and circulation
A 2016 study revealed that practising mindful walking is beneficial for people with diabetes. For the study, participants practised either mindful walking or regular walking for 30 minutes, 3 times a week for 12 weeks. Walking meditation benefits us more than regular walking, according to the research. 
6: Improves well-being
Similar to Forest bathing meditation, taking a walk in nature benefits our overall mental health. One 2018 study by the Center for Environment, Health and Field Sciences showed that 15 minutes of walking through a forest alleviated anxiety and improved mood. 
7: Improves sleep quality
Exercise improves sleep quality, and research shows that it doesn’t need to be an intense form of exercise. Kinhin may help improve sleep quality.
8: Enhances balance
A 2019 study indicates that practising 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 Kinhin is that it helps us to focus. The sensations in the body can help stimulate the mind so we focus better.
Benefits of walking meditation with bare feet
- 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.
When the bare feet touch the earth, they soak up the Earth’s negative ions according to the Journal of Environmental and Public Health .
Zen Walking Meditation F.A.Q
What Is Walking Meditation?
What are the different types of meditative walking techniques?
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 done in Korean Seon and Vietnamese Thien, Daoism, and sometimes 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).
How long do you need to practice for 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 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 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.
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!).
Kinhin 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.
Can I practise in a group?
Yes! It is great to do Zen Walking Meditation technique 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.
As you can see by the instructions, walking meditation is basically mindfulness during a walk.
Zen walking meditation technique, “Kinhin”, takes your regular old stroll and turns it into a powerful Buddhist mindfulness practice. And t provides many wonderful health benefits, as we have seen.
1: How walking benefits the brain, Science Daily, https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/04/170424141340.htm
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
Paul Harrison is a passionate meditation teacher who believes in genuine, authentic meditation. He has more than 15 years experience in meditation and mindfulness. He studied meditation in beautiful Oxford, UK, and Hamilton Ontario Canada, and earned his degree at Staffordshire University.
“My goal is to provide the most authentic meditation sessions so you can harness the power of your own mind for personal transformation” – Paul Harrison