Walking as a meditation practice

December 2, 2019

At a retreat in the mountains I was talking to an older man over dinner.  I say, “older” but really, he could’ve been closer to my age than any of yours. Probably.  Anyway, we were commenting on how the retreat center had been attractively built into the mountain requiring many flights of stairs and few flat pathways to get from building to building. I noticed no ramps.

“Yes,” he said, “at this age, walking has become a meditation practice in and of itself.”

He was, of course, referring to the need to watch each and every footfall for fear we’d miss a step and tumble into a broken ankle or worse, a hip. A new meaning for walking meditation.

And he was, right, of course. At this age, walking becomes an exercise in mindfulness. It’s something I never thought about until recent years, in the innocence of my (relative) youth.

But now, as friend after friend falls and breaks something, I, too, am more aware of where I step.

At night, especially, the need for taking care was crucial at our retreat center, as steps and pathways were only dimly lit. The peaceful ambience and all that.

I get it: it’s a beautiful place. But it’s hardly accessible, and while most older people are not disabled, the stakes are higher for us.  It would’ve been nice to have seen more care taken toward a more multi-generational site.

This is the way it is for us now, though, we senior citizens. We are no longer part of the future and so our needs aren’t as crucial to a successful project. A friend 10 years younger than I recently wrote that she’d reached the “age of irrelevancy.” Although she got there earlier than I did, I can’t disagree.

I’m increasingly aware of things like this, now that I am older. How marginalized older people are. How our needs don’t seem to even dawn on folks like architects, designers–most people who are NOT senior. Our time, it appears, has passed and they look toward the future.

Of course, there’s another whole topic, which is how aesthetics sometimes take precedence in our world in a form over function approach. As with this retreat center.

But that’s a topic for another day.

Would love your thoughts.

11 comments on “Walking as a meditation practice
  1. When I had my broken leg and spent three months in a wheelchair I saw first-hand how little we do for our seniors or those with disabilities. Getting around or just going to the restroom became a mass undertaking at times.

  2. Alana says:

    One day I was at the ballpark at night. When the game was over the lights were so dim, as always but this time, for some reason, I was terrified of going down the stairs (which, by the way, didn’t have handrails). When did that happen? What is the magic dividing line of being middle aged vs a senior, and why does no one seem to care but other seniors? Thoughtful post.

  3. Lauren says:

    I have learned to treat some walks as a meditation, I make sure to feel my feet and take in what’s around me. Other times I’m just in a hurry to get somewhere.

  4. Karen says:

    When I travel, and maybe even around town in the not-too-distant future, I use a walking stick, or hiking pole-whichever you want to call it. It takes about 30% pressure off the knees, but just as importantly, it helps me navigate stairs, uneven steps, rocky or heavily rooted paths, etc. One of the biggest issues that I seem to have is tile services that are too slick. I am especially mindful of them, in hotel rooms, lobbies, even outdoor areas.And, frankly, if it’s a real steep area, I have no problem grabbing the arm of someone else.

  5. John says:

    Walking is truly meditative. Whenever possible I will choose to walk instead of taking my car. Even in crowded city, walking with all the background noise is really enjoyable. In the evening and at night the relaxation that comes with walking increases even more.

  6. Walking is really meditative.There are many health benefits of walking.Walking reduces risk of heart disease and stroke.

  7. John Gatesby says:

    Yes being mindful and walking is the best way to relax our mind and activate our parasympathetic nervous system. Not only that I am now trying to apply mindfulness to the work also, turning my work into a long meditation exercise.

  8. Bebeto Raha says:

    Thanks For Your Post. I Really Love Your Writing Style.. I Do Meditation Several Times but did not work.. Now I Do Hatha Yoga which helped me a lot

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