Zazen is Not Only Sitting

While you have been learning zazen as sitting meditation, zazen is not just sitting.

You can, in fact, do zazen walking, standing, sitting or lying down.

Walking meditation

When have been sitting for long sessions, periods of walking meditation allow you to continue zazen while stretching your legs.

It also allows you to take zazen into motion and into physical activity.

Whether formal or informal, walking meditation is an example of how the practice of zazen is not dependent on one position or another.

In walking meditation (kinhin), using the whole body and mind, focus your attention on each moment of each moment and simply go forward.

In formal walking meditation, place your hands in the walking position (shashu) at about the solar plexus — the left hand forming a fist with the thumb tucked in, the right hand covering it, with both hands placed over the solar plexus with the elbows and forearms roughly parallel to the floor.

There are two forms, slow and rapid.

In slow walking, starting with the left foot, bring it forward about six inches, and — synchronizing each step with your breathing — take small six-inch steps.

In some zendos walking meditation consists of a period of slow walking followed by a period of fast walking. Usually a signal —a sharp clapping noise —  signals the transition from slow walking to rapid walking. 

When walking rapidly with a group simply follow the person in front of us and maintain a steady distance.

Walking meditation is a particularly nice practice for zazen at home — or if you’re camping in the woods, at the beach, etc.  All you need is a place where you won’t have to be looking around constantly to monitor whether cars (or bears) are coming at you. Find a level space if possible, although you can walk anywhere. You can wander freely; it’s certainly not necessary to follow a particular route. (In the zendo we do so for practical purposes, as well as to emphasize the oneness of the sangha.) You can walk at a normal pace, walk slowly or fast.