Walking as a Spiritual Path

When I lived in California in the eighties, I studied Zen Buddhism with Cheri Huber, author of There Is Nothing Wrong with You and many other books.

We did a lot of sitting, as Buddhists are wont to do. We did some working meditation too — cooking, for instance, while maintaining a silent meditative focus, or trying to.

My favorite part was walking meditation. We’d take slow, deliberate steps around the monastery. The turtle gait gave us a chance to pay attention to everything: our bodies, our breath, our environment, and our seven trillion racing, often ridiculous thoughts.

As an athlete, I learn by doing – by PAR-ticipating, as we say in AAPAR, the American Association for Physical Activity and Recreation. So walking meditation offered me a valuable opportunity to observe, understand, and develop compassion for my own body and mind (which is “the point” of Zen training, though purists would say there is no real “point.”)

The labyrinth offers a related form of walking meditation. These ancient mazes are increasingly popular throughout the world, as people look for a way to deepen their spiritual practice through walking.

I’ve tried the plastic kind they sometimes carpet church halls with, but it was difficult for me to put aside my alienation from the plastic long enough to experience any sort of enlightenment (except the awareness that I’m not fond of plastic.)

Then last summer I discovered a labyrinth on Block Island (a ferry ride from mainland Rhode Island,) high on a green hill overlooking the bay. With the view of the ocean and the breeze in my face, that was more conducive to insight, awareness, and peace.

Most mall-walkers and fitness walkers don’t tend to think of their journeys as spiritual ones. But why not?


Try not to let a little plastic – or traffic, or pollution – get in your way. Who knows what enlightenment, peace, or insights one might gain when body and mind are free to roam?

Mariah Burton Nelson
American Association for Physical Activity and Recreation

Explore posts in the same categories: American Assn for Physical Activity & Recreation, Exercise, Habits, Walking

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