Walking versus Sitting Meditation

I seem to have an easier time concentrating when I am doing sitting meditation versus when I am walking. I wonder if perhaps it is because I do walking meditation first. It takes some time for my mind to properly concentrate so that by the time I have finished walking and commence sitting I have better concentration. Or might there be other reasons why I concentrate better during sitting meditation than walking? Any thoughts on why I am experiencing this? Does anyone have any suggestions?

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I don’t see this as a problem. The combination of what you are doing seems to be working!

Personally, I do it in that sequence as well.

I think that there will always be more distraction:

  1. When you start.
  2. When you are walking.
    However, if you think of the distractions as an opportunity to observe how your mind works, it’s not really a negative.

You could experiment with different orderings, and see how it is different…

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I find the same thing, and have thought about it quite a bit. Possibly (in my case) it’s because I find sitting easier and more pleasant than walking and consequently have had rather more practice at sitting. I find the whole business of managing my body when walking (staying balanced, placing my feet etc) requires a lot more attention and manoeuvring than staying still while sitting on a cushion.

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Thanks for the replies. I think part of what is in play here is that I enjoy walking. Before I started my Vipassana practice I would use the opportunity of long walks to sort out my thoughts about issues confronting me in life. That was fine then, but after having experienced a life crisis and starting my Vipassana practice I find that old habits of thinking during walking actually hinder my ability to concentrate properly. I associate walking with thinking, but thinking often turns to worrying which is the antithesis of what I am trying to achieve.

The good thing is that I am acutely aware of this and being aware is one step (pardon the pun!) towards working towards right concentration.

More suggestions are gladly welcomed!

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Which one is more still?

Sitting is more still.

Lying down is also a “posture” for practice. Like you said, walking tends to be more conducive to thinking and lying down tends to be more conducive to dozing off… so sitting seems to be the perfect median (thus it’s status as the de facto meditation posture).

In MN20, the gradual stilling of physical movement/activities is related to stilling the thoughts:

Suppose there was a person walking quickly. They’d think: ‘Why am I walking so quickly? Why don’t I slow down?’ So they’d slow down. They’d think: ‘Why am I walking slowly? Why don’t I stand still?’ So they’d stand still. They’d think: ‘Why am I standing still? Why don’t I sit down?’ So they’d sit down. They’d think: ‘Why am I sitting? Why don’t I lie down?’ So they’d lie down. And so that person would reject successively coarser postures and adopt more subtle ones. In the same way, a mendicant … should focus on stopping the formation of thoughts …

https://suttacentral.net/mn20/en/sujato#sc5

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Again, that sounds like an opportunity. Is some sort of awareness of thinking part of your toolkit?

Here’s one possible approach: Dharma Seed - Patrick Kearney’s Dharma Talks

A fundamental principle of satipaṭṭhāna practice is to take what distracts us, what prevents us from practising, and make it our meditation object. Here we look at using the thought-stream as meditation object. We learn how to attend to the process of thinking rather than get caught up in the contents of our thoughts.

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These are tremendously helpful resources. Thank you very much! This is why I come to this forum. You are most kind.

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You’re welcome!

I’ve not met Patrick Kearney, but I’ve worked through the recordings from several of his retreats (there’s a whole retreat from 2015 on Dharmaseed), and have found them very helpful. The format he uses for the instructions (exercises and discussion) make the recordings very useful, almost like being there…

Here are some more recent recordings: Audio | Dharma Salon

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Both walking and sitting are good occasions for meditation. Sitting is a stiller position. But if the mind is very active, it may calm down while walking, to a level where sitting is really fruitfull. … It may take longer to develop Samadhi while walking, but once achieved, it can be very stable. When sitting in meditation, if your mind is not calm, it may settle down into day dreaming, instead of mindful attention. Walking is good to remove drowsiness. ----------- I am praising walking meditation in this way, because I have found it helpful occasionally. But sitting meditation is the real job.

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I do believe that walking meditation does help with calming the mind such that when you have finished walking and commence your sitting the mind is in a calmer state. It would’ve taken more time during sitting practice to calm the mind if walking was not used prior. It also depends on one’s state of mind as well.

There’s also the rarely practiced standing meditation posture.

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This may have been mentioned before, but I’ll mention it again. The Cankama Sutta is a nice reference to the value of walking meditation. AN 5.29

“Mendicants, there are five benefits of walking meditation. What five? You get fit for traveling, fit for striving in meditation, and healthy. What’s eaten, drunk, chewed, and tasted is properly digested. And immersion gained while walking lasts long. These are the five benefits of walking meditation.”

cankama%20walking%20umong

Walking meditation hall at Wat Umong, Chiang Mai, Thailand

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That’s interesting. Among members of this forum I am probably one of the newest to the practice. And yet one of my most productive meditation sessions since I have started practicing was in the standing meditation posture.

I did not intend for this to happen, by the way. I was walking near the ocean and hiked up a hill for a view. At the top of the hill I stopped to stand and take in the view and the sights, sounds, and smells of nature along with the light ocean breeze. I stood there for quite some time, allowing thoughts to rise and fall. Eventually my mind was more still than in any of my previous walking or sitting meditation sessions.

Later I talked on the phone with one of my teachers. I told him about my experience and asked him if there is such a thing as standing meditation. He said there is and I had experienced it. It was a very powerful moment.

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Walking meditation was my first type of meditation and I did it daily for 6 to 8 months prior to sitting for the first time.
There are, however, multiple forms of walking meditation. At the beginning I remember that Bhikhu Bodhi wrote in an essay that some monks in Sri Lanka could take two hours to walk just a few meters. So it can be done very slowly. You might actually spend 5 to 10 minutes before one step to the other, making it a “standing” meditation, just feeling the body standing.
It worked for me :slight_smile:

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This is good advice. One of my teachers has instructed me that when I am having negative thoughts during walking meditation I should suspend walking and stand in one place until the negative thoughts pass. I do find that this works and interrupts the cycle of negative thinking which impairs concentration. After stilling my mind while standing I can start walking again.

All of this brings me back to my initial observation which is that my “monkey mind” seems most active while walking, quite possibly, as I have previously noted, because I associate walking with my old habit of using long walks to sort out problems in my life. I recognize now that a lot of sorting out problems was actually worrying which is antithetical to my practice. What I need to work on is disassociating walking from old cognitive habits as I continue with my practice. It’s a gradual process, but one that is contributing to my enhanced well-being.

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There isn’t actually too much in the suttas on walking meditation. And there are actually no instructions on how to practice it (as far as I’m aware). Some modern Vipassanāvadin instructors teach a very slow motion bionic man like technique, and some teach a fast paced one. My intuition is that the technique is just regular old walking but with an intention towards mindfulness and clear awareness/comprehension.

Walking is something the bhikkhus and bhikkhunīs of old did a lot of.

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This is one of the aspects of walking meditation that intrigues me. It seems that it is integral to the bhavana practice, and yet as @SCMatt states, there’s little to no actual instruction in the Suttas.

I’m reminded of Ajahn Chah watching ( I believe at a property that used to be a sanitarium) walking meditation while visiting England, and he commented " I hope you get better!" suggesting (tongue in cheek) that the meditators were ill, as they were walking so ultra-slowly.

Other cases are where I’ve seen some monks marching up and down walking paths as though exercising.

I read somewhere that one technique that is useful is to align the motions of the legs and feet with the breath. I have found this useful, as the breath is the foundation for the pace of the walking. The mind is grounded in the body ( feet), with the tempo guided by the breath. Then,when anchoring to the breath sitting, after a period of walking, the breath is not re-established, but is anchored there for both the walking and the sitting. Just one idea.

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It’s quite possible that the pace is less important than the quality of mindfulness. I attended a meditation session with one of my teachers the other night. As students were arriving the teacher was walking at a more rapid pace than what he has taught us. And, indeed, when the group was assembled, he slowed his pace to what he has instructed us to do. Perhaps his faster walking was incidental, or maybe it is really more important to cultivate the proper state of mind than to obsess over the pace of the walking.