Walking Meditation

Thay Explains Walking Meditation

Text of Thay’s video hers

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Walking Meditation (No Mud, No Lotus)

In our daily lives we have the habit of running. We seek peace, success, and love—we are always on the run—and our steps are one means by which we run away from the present moment. But life is available only in the present moment; peace is available only in the present moment. Taking a step and taking refuge in your step, means to stop running. For those of us who are used to always running, it is a revolution to make a step and stop running. We make a step, and if we know how to make it, peace becomes available in that moment of touching the Earth with our feet. It would be a pity to let a whole day pass without enjoying walking on the Earth.

We may have lost our freedom and our sovereignty. We may allow ourselves to be pushed and pulled away from the here and the now. Now we have to resist the habit energy that pushes us to run. We have to recover our sovereignty and reclaim our freedom and walk like a free person on Earth. Freedom doesn’t mean political freedom. It means freedom from the past, from the future, from our worries and our fear. Each step can help free us. We resist, we don’t allow ourselves to be carried away anymore. We want to be free, because we know that without freedom, no happiness, no peace, will be possible. The Buddha said that freedom and solidity are the two characteristics of nirvana. Imagine someone who has no solidity and no freedom. That person can never be happy. Walking like this helps us to cultivate freedom and solidity, which will bring us well-being and happiness.


Let your steps follow your breath, not the other way around. Let your breathing be natural, never forced. Breathing in, if your lungs want two steps, then we can take exactly two steps. If you feel better with three steps then give yourself three steps while breathing in. When you breathe out, listen to your lungs. Whenever you feel that you want to take an extra step while breathing out, then allow yourself to have one more step breathing out. Every step should be enjoyable.

Usually, our in-breath tends to be a little shorter than our out-breath. When you breathe in, you may take two steps and say: “I have arrived, I have arrived.” When you breathe out, you might like to take three steps and say: “I am home, I am home, I am home.” “Home” means being at home in the present moment where you can touch all the wonders of life. We should be able to walk with a lot of tenderness and happiness on this beautiful planet. “I have arrived, I am home,” is not a statement, but a practice.

Allow yourself to sink deeply into the here and the now, because life is possible only in the present, life is available only in the present moment, and you know that you have the capacity to touch life in the present moment, in the here and the now.

Sometimes it’s helpful to practice in a park or some other beautiful, quiet place. This nourishes our spirit and strengthens our mindfulness. We walk slowly but not too slowly, so we don’t stand out and make people feel uncomfortable. This is a kind of invisible practice. We can enjoy nature and our own serenity. When we see something we want to touch with our mindfulness—the blue sky, the hills, a tree, or a bird—we just stop, but while we do so, we continue breathing in and out mindfully.

Practice stopping while you’re walking. If you can stop while walking, then you’ll be able to stop when doing your other daily activities, whether that is cleaning the kitchen, watering the garden, or eating breakfast.

If you suffer from depression, your depression won’t be able to go away until you know how to stop. You’ve lived in such a way that depression has become possible. You’ve been running and not allowed yourself the time to rest, to relax, and to live your daily life deeply. Spending time each day doing mindful walking can help. Arrange your life so that you can do mindful walking every day. It’s good to walk alone, but it’s also good to practice walking meditation with the Sangha, to get support. You can ask a friend to go with you, or you can even take the hand of a child and walk with him or her.

We should be able to practice mindful breathing and walking everywhere—in our home, at work, at school, in a hospital, even in Congress. Some years ago we offered a retreat for Congresspeople in Washington D.C. And now there are a number of Congressmen who know how to practice walking meditation on Capitol Hill.

When you walk to the bus stop or from one room to another, make it into a walking meditation. Even if your surroundings are full of noise and agitation, you can still walk in rhythm with your breathing. Even in the commotion of a big city, you can walk with peace, happiness, and an inner smile. This is what it means to live fully in every moment of every day of your life. This is something that is possible to do.

Walking in walking meditation is walking just to enjoy walking. You don’t have any desire to arrive anywhere. Walking and not arriving, that is the technique. And you enjoy every step you make. Every step brings you home to the here and the now. Your true home is the here and the now, because only in this moment, in this place, called the here and the now, is life possible. Every step you take should bring you back to peace, to the present moment.

According to Master Linji the miracle is not to walk on water or in thin air, but to walk on Earth. Walk in such a way that you become fully alive and joy and happiness are possible. That is the miracle that everyone can perform. I perform that miracle every time I walk; and you can too. If you have mindfulness, concentration, and insight then every step you make on this Earth is performing a miracle.

Hanh, N. T. (2014). No Mud, No Lotus: The Art of Transforming Suffering. Parallax Press (pp. 121-122)

Walking Meditation (Peace is Every Step)

Walking meditation can be very enjoyable. We walk slowly, alone or with friends, if possible in some beautiful place. Walking meditation is really to enjoy the walking—walking not in order to arrive, but just to walk. The purpose is to be in the present moment and, aware of our breathing and our walking, to enjoy each step. Therefore we have to shake off all worries and anxieties, not thinking of the future, not thinking of the past, just enjoying the present moment. We can take the hand of a child as we do it. We walk, we make steps as if we are the happiest person on Earth.

Although we walk all the time, our walking is usually more like running. When we walk like that, we print anxiety and sorrow on the Earth. We have to walk in a way that we only print peace and serenity on the Earth. We can all do this, provided that we want it very much. Any child can do it. If we can take one step like this, we can take two, three, four, and five. When we are able to take one step peacefully and happily, we are working for the cause of peace and happiness for the whole of humankind. Walking meditation is a wonderful practice. When we do walking meditation outside, we walk a little slower than our normal pace, and we coordinate our breathing with our steps. For example, we may take three steps with each in-breath and three steps with each out-breath. So we can say, “In, in, in. Out, out, out.” “In” is to help us to identify the in-breath. Every time we call something by its name, we make it more real, like saying the name of a friend.

If your lungs want four steps instead of three, please give them four steps. If they want only two steps, give them two. The lengths of your in-breath and out-breath do not have to be the same. For example, you can take three steps with each inhalation and four with each exhalation. If you feel happy, peaceful, and joyful while you are walking, you are practicing correctly.

Be aware of the contact between your feet and the Earth. Walk as if you are kissing the Earth with your feet. We have caused a lot of damage to the Earth. Now it is time for us to take good care of her. We bring our peace and calm to the surface of the Earth and share the lesson of love. We walk in that spirit. From time to time, when we see something beautiful, we may want to stop and look at it—a tree, a flower, some children playing. As we look, we continue to follow our breathing, lest we lose the beautiful flower and get caught up in our thoughts. When we want to resume walking, we just start again. Each step we take will create a cool breeze, refreshing our body and mind. Every step makes a flower bloom under our feet. We can do it only if we do not think of the future or the past, if we know that life can only be found in the present moment.

Practice stopping while you’re walking. If you can stop while walking, then you’ll be able to stop when doing your other daily activities, whether that is cleaning the kitchen, watering the garden, or eating breakfast.

Hanh, T. N. (1995). Peace Is Every Step: The Path of Mindfulness in Everyday Life. Random House. (pp. 27-29)