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How to practise walking and sitting meditation
in the Buddhist Insight tradition (also called Vipassana)

 

Vipassana is a Pali word which comes from the roots 'Vi' meaning 'clearly' and 'passana' meaning 'to know'. So it means
'to know clearly'. We know the body and mind clearly. It is usually translated in English as 'Insight Meditation'. It is one of two
main groups of Buddhist meditation practice. The other group is the Samatha (Concentration) group.


Although it can be practised in any position and at any time, there are four main positions for practising Insight
(Vipassana) meditation formally. They are standing, walking, sitting and lying down. Standing and walking are usually
practised before sitting. The walking meditation helps to build up energy and concentration to support the sitting practice.

The exercises described here conform to the formal practice which is taught at Section 5 of Wat Mahadhatu (Mahadhatu Temple
in Bangkok). They in turn follow the line of teaching of the renowned Meditation Master Ven. Mahasri Sayadaw of Burma.

Note: It is advisable to learn how to practise with an experienced meditation master.
The guidance of a Kalayanamitta (Good friend) is invaluable.

 

This is a simplified guide to the first of a series of 6 walking exercises.
You are strongly advised to attend classes to get a real feel for this process.


Select a suitable time when you will not be disturbed.

You will need between ten and fifteen feet of space in which to walk.
Stand still with your eyes open. You should be looking at the floor ahead of you.
When standing still your gaze should be focused about two metres ahead of you,
but when walking, the focus point should be a little nearer, about six feet ahead.
Hold your hands together in a position that feels comfortable for you.

Be aware of the position of the body standing.
To help you focus on the present moment,
make three mental acknowledgements 'Standing, standing, standing'


Next, notice the intention to walk, again making three mental acknowledgements of 'Intending to walk'.

Lift the right foot and place it about six inches ahead of the left foot.
Focus attention on the movement of the foot from the moment it is lifted until it is set down,
simultaneously making the acknowledgement 'Right goes thus'.

Move your point of attention to the left foot. Be aware of the movement of the left foot as it is happening
and simultaneously acknowledge in mind 'Left goes thus'.

Continue walking, with awareness focused on the movements of the feet until you come to the end of the walk space.
Acknowledge bringing your feet together and then slowly turn through about 180 degrees.

The practitioner should then be aware of 'Standing' and 'Intending to walk' as before
and then walk back in the direction he has just come from.

This walking exercise can continue for about 15 minutes before you change to sitting meditation.
At the changeover point, be sure to move slowly and maintain awareness of your movements at all times.

Sitting meditation

Sit in a stable position on a mat or large cushion on the floor or on a chair.
Your back should be straight but not stiff. The blood circulation should not be obstructed.
The hands should be held loosely in the lap.

Close your eyes and focus the mind inwards.
Be aware of the movements of the abdomen that accompany breathing.

Put your attention on a point about the size of a fingertip, just below the navel, on the surface of the skin.
Feel/attend to this point as it moves in concert with natural breathing.

As you breathe in (inhale) this point will move away from the spine and up and out a little. As it does so, say in mind 'Rising'.
As you breathe out (exhale) this same point will fall back towards the spine and drop down a little. As it does so, say in mind 'Falling'.


While practising Insight meditation, focusing attention on the rising and falling movements of the abdomen forms the base practice. However, sensations, perceptions, thoughts and emotions are also integral to the meditation and should attended to as well.
There is no aspect of present experience which does not have a place in Vipassana (Insight) meditation.


If you have practised walking for fifteen minutes, then you practise sitting meditation for a further fifteen minutes.