Contemplative Walking: An Underused Prayer Opportunity


Wherever we walk, whether it’s the railway station or the supermarket, we are walking on the earth and so we are in a holy sanctuary. Thich Nhat Hanh.

But the beauty is in the walking – we are betrayed by destinations. Gwyn Thomas

The contemplative dimension of walking comes through my presence to the world around me and to what is moving through me as I walk. Christine Valters Paintner

Unitive experience often results from a "letting go" rather than a direct effort. Ken Wilbur

Walking meditation is a simple and universal practice for developing calm, connectedness, and embodied awareness. Jack Kornfield

Psalm 37:7 Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him.

Luke 18 We ought always to pray.

Hebrews 13:5 That they should seek God, and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him. Yet he is actually not far from each one of us. 

Two Defining Features of Contemplation

1.      God is already present within us – the Divine Indwelling.

2.      We must learn to wait, let go, be aware, receive, and consent.

Contemplative Prayer – Sitting and Walking

·         Sitting -  whole body, mind, spirit.

·         Walking - ancient practice in Eastern Religions. Walking meditation is not that prevalent in the West. Labyrinths are relatively popular but represent a slightly different practice with a focus on an end-point − a center whereas contemplative walking is open-ended with no such focus.

Contemplative Walking – Some Guidelines for Developing a Practice

1.      Beforehand: Determine route and pace (normal, slow, real slow).

2.      Steps:

·         Stand still – feel ground, floor, or path with soles of feet sensing connection to earth.

·         While standing focus on breathing so that it is even and relaxed while concentrating on breathing in and breathing out.

·         Begin paces matching breaths to steps

            Normal – in breath two steps; out breath two steps.

            Slow – in breath one step; out breath one step.

            Real Slow –in breath and out breath one step.

·         Use heel to toe as separate motions to signify beginning a step and ending the step.

·         Optional – recite sacred word with each breath as in Centering Prayer.

·         Re-focus on breath or sacred word when distractions arise.

·         Immerse one’s whole self −body, mind, spirit and motion becoming one with the environment.

·         Become aware of total environment allowing senses to receive what may come (sights, sounds, wind, colors, scents, other persons, other beings etc).

·         Avoid looking around and seeking− develop the sense of just being present, immersed and aware

·         Develop sense of being in a sanctuary, in the presence of God.

·         Stop and remain standing for a moment at the end of the walking period to savor and appreciate the opportunity walk on the sacred ground in the presence of God.

Opportunities to Practice Contemplative Walking

1.      Scheduled component of group prayer such - as retreats, gatherings as ours today.

2.      Planned walking in a group or as an individual.

3.      Informal − catching walking opportunities throughout the day.

Presented by Geoff Colvin (