Walking meditation guide

For those, like me, who are beginning to incorporate walking meditation into their daily routine, this article could prove useful!



Here is another good video.


I meditate walking with hands relaxed and swinging. In the dojo we did walk with hands clasped. I actually have not noticed any difference in outcome. However, walking with swinging arms in public attracts less notice and promotes seclusion that facilitates meditation. This video specifically warns against swinging hands, which I found unexpected. Does anybody know the reason for not allowing arms to swing?

Note: during Zen kinhin walking meditation, the arms are folded in front for the simple reason that it prevents arm knocking collisions within the tight line of meditators, especially when turning corners sharply. A line of Rinzai Zen kinhin meditators feels somewhat like a bullet train sweeping through the dojo with the brisk swish swish of hakamas.


It’s in the Vinaya. Probably part of the Buddha’s marketing efforts (so his monks & nuns don’t look like a buncha lollygaggers).


I always assumed that keeping the arms stationary was to facilitate a higher level of focus on the sensations in the feet and legs, as that is the primary focus/meditation object. I much prefer this method to the one I practiced previously, which required the arms to bend at all sorts of weird angles, and was developed in ancient Egypt, and rediscovered in the mid eighties by a pop band called the Bangles.


You’re probably already aware of this, but I don’t think that or much of anything on walking meditation is in the EBT’s.


I agree. If anyone knows any suttas which reference walking mediation beyond walking back and forth in the open air, I would love to read them.

1 Like

Wow. Would you have a reference? I can only find this:

Not to enter a layman’s house swinging the arms about.

Sekhiya 15-25
Sorry, I couldn’t find an English translation on SC.


The term is caṅkama and, beside few mentions in verses, the only sutta about it is AN5.29.

Note that SN14.15 supports it being a practice main disciples took on.



Thank you. I had skimmed the SC Vinaya and didn’t remember reading this rule. Now I see that these sections are blank placeholders. I shall now be mindful of arm swinging. :pray:

1 Like

Most of the things you can do in sitting meditation you can do in walking meditation. If you read the last 5 suttas of KN Iti (iti vutthaka), it acts as a summary of the entire path. The four jhanas are not even explicitly mentioned, what you find instead is often “samadhi”, “sati”, “ekaggata” all being done at the same time in any of the four postures.

Also in KN Iti, walking on alms while in jhana.

(AN 3.16 excerpt)

proper way to sleep

Kathañ-ca, bhikkhave, bhikkhu
jāgariyaṃ anuyutto hoti?
{devoted-to} wakefulness ****?
Idha, bhikkhave, bhikkhu
Here, monks, a-monk

(sunrise to sunset, 6am to 6pm)

[during] day [time],
caṅkamena nisajjāya
walking-[meditation]-forward-and-backward (and) sitting [meditation],
āvaraṇīyehi dhammehi cittaṃ parisodheti,
obstructive qualities (of) mind (he) purifies,

(first watch of night, 6pm to 10pm)

rattiyā paṭhamaṃ yāmaṃ
At-night-time, first watch-of-the-night,
caṅkamena nisajjāya
walking-[meditation]-forward-and-backward (and) sitting [meditation],
āvaraṇīyehi dhammehi cittaṃ parisodheti,
obstructive qualities (of) mind (he) purifies,

(middle watch of night, 10pm to 2am)

rattiyā majjhimaṃ yāmaṃ
At-night-time, middle watch-of-the-night,
dakkhiṇena passena sīhaseyyaṃ kappeti
(on his) right side, (the) lion-lying-down [posture] *******,
pāde pādaṃ accādhāya
(one) foot (on the other) foot overlapping,
sato sampajāno
mindful (and) clearly-comprehending,
uṭṭhāna-saññaṃ manasi karitvā,
rising-[from sleep]-perception (his) mind sets,

(last watch of night, 2am to 6am)

rattiyā pacchimaṃ yāmaṃ
At-night-time, last watch-of-the-night,
After-rising [from lying down],
caṅkamena nisajjāya
walking-[meditation]-forward-and-backward (and) sitting [meditation],
āvaraṇīyehi dhammehi cittaṃ parisodheti,
obstructive qualities (of) mind (he) purifies,
Evaṃ kho, bhikkhave, bhikkhu
thus indeed, monks, a-monk
jāgariyaṃ anuyutto hoti.
{is} {devoted to} wakefulness.
Imehi kho, bhikkhave,
These indeed, monks,
tīhi dhammehi samannāgato bhikkhu
three qualities possessed (by a ) monk,
Apaṇṇaka-paṭipadaṃ paṭipanno hoti,
(the) faultless-path practiced ****,
yoni cassa āraddhā hoti
{and} the basis aroused for
āsavānaṃ khayāyā”ti.
Asinine-inclinations’ destruction.
(end of sutta)

The approach described in books such as “Practicing the Jhānas” by Snyder and Rasmussen, about the Pa Auk methods, seems, to me, to be consistent with what @frankk describes above from the suttas. In particular: (pp. 68-69)

In all cases, make sure that you maintain your focus on the breath at the ānāpāna spot the entire time you are walking.


To elaborate, in order to avoid misunderstanding, the above instruction about walking meditation is in tandem with instruction to have that same focus during seated meditation. So the assertion is not that ānāpāna should always be the mental focus during walking meditation, but that, for development of jhāna the mental focus should be the same in seated, walking, etc. meditation. E.g., if one is doing kasina meditation while seated, then one should also focus on the kasina during walking meditation, if the aim is to develop jhāna.


Today I meditated walking in lay clothes around the streets of the neighborhood, barefoot and with hands clasped in front as for kinhin. Much to my surprise, I found that this simple clasping of hands afforded a serene and mutually respected silence when passing non-meditators. One is normally required by social norms to greet passersby, even if only with a simple nod. With hands clasped, eyes down in front, there was no such expectation from passersby. Instead of acknowledgement, we simply shared contentment of being.

This was California, so YMMV.


As a cautionary note, please be aware and mindful that walking meditation in non-Buddhist host cultures is unsettling to others.

I’ve been walking meditation barefoot in the neighborhood for weeks now, twice a day. Early on it was not an issue, but then people started to notice the regularity and concern was born. Is he nuts? Is he well? Should he be here? Is he dangerous?

Today the police showed up and questioned me as I was walking meditation. I was intercepted by two police cruisers. The officers were kindly concerned and enquired about my well-being. They left a bit puzzled and assured me that I wasn’t doing anything illegal. However I could sense lingering concern and an eventual discussion at police HQ.

The experience was new to all of us. We’ve lived in this neighborhood for almost 30 years. Walking barefoot is a new experience for me. It has taught me gentleness. And that is what I explained to the police officers. We usually stomp our way around (“pound the streets”) our daily life. That stomping leads to…bloody feet. So gentleness.

The other weird bit for them was my preference for actually walking on the street, especially since I told them I was legally blind walking in the street without my eyeglasses. Fortunately I was able to explain that I’m not THAT blind and could see the other police cruiser pulling up at the end of the block. I prefer walking in the street because it’s more secluded than sidewalk walking with passersby and their bubbles of thought. It also helped orient them to my “normalcy” when I pulled my Air Pods out of my ears. “Oh that’s someone who can afford Air Pods and is not a vagrant.”

When walking at night, I use a reflective vest. Even then one should be mindful and aware. I had to turn aside when my neighbor returned home and swooped into the driveway unaware of me.

Happy meditating and metta to all the neighbors and police!

Stay alive and be kind and courteous to all.


1 Like

Hi @karl_lew, I suggest you consider choosing a more secluded place to practice meditation, either siting or walking.

To me EBTs are quite consistent that the setting for formal practice should be as much as isolated from distractions and distracting others as possible.

In traditional Theravada monasteries you will notice that the walking meditation paths are usually isolated enough so that only those approaching a bhikkhu’s specific hut will be able to distract him from his practice.

In a nutshell, when practicing meditation it is reasonable to seek a level of privacy consistent with that one would seek to do private things like using the toilet or having shower! :slightly_smiling_face:


Excellent point. I do walk at night in the street to avoid bothering folks on the sidewalk. I’ll also change my route to avoid the school and its noisy bustle during the morning. Perhaps it was a concerned parent calling the police. Generally speaking, without eyeglasses I obtain instant seclusion, but I also must be kind to my neighbors.

1 Like

I have seen several teachers recommend that one walk in slow motion when doing walking meditation; whereas other teachers make fun of it and say you should walk normally. Is there any indication in EBT or the commentaries about the speed you should walk?
Concerning the swinging of arms, I actually find it quite pleasant to swing them and it’s easier for me to be constantly aware of their movement than of the movement of my legs. So insofar as the object of meditation should not really matter (could be the breath, could be metta, could be a body part) I think that swinging my arms works well for me. :slightly_smiling_face::pray:


Not that I’ve ever seen in the suttas. The only things I can recall is mentioned (this is for bhikkhus as I recall) walking with “eyes downcast and not foot loose”, and of course one should always continuously try to establish sati in any posture.

The vinaya probably has some tips about comportment while walking, not just for the sake of quality of samadhi in walking, but for good public image of the sangha that they doesn’t reflect negatively (being too talkative for example).

1 Like