When Walking Meditation Fails

This morning, I headed out for my usual walk and meditation. Almost from the beginning, something didn’t feel right. My pace was a little slower, the sun was a little higher. But the weather was fine and I was feeling strong.

After I crossed a busy street, the meditation that usually relaxes and delights mecommon-sandpiper_504_600x450 didn’t work. Was it the long list of items still to do before the Design Your Life Camp? Was it the new Persuasive Writing Class I’m teaching on Wednesday? I don’t know. I tried following my breathing. I tried listening to every sound on the walk. I tried imagining letting go of each thought. But my mind raced and bounced, worried and fretted. There are sandpipers here in the fall, shore birds hundreds of miles from shore. I felt that misplaced.

It happens. Even long-term meditators have days in which meditation is difficult. I decided to let it go. Instead, I plugged in and listened to a novel that took a bit to get into, but that I am now enjoying.

I wanted to worry about it. I wanted to figure out why. I wanted to beat myself up for . . . listening to my inner critic. It doesn’t happen often, but when I can’t muster the gift of meditation, I move on. Tomorrow will be another opportunity. It’s hard to be OK with not connecting with a practice that is generally refreshing and invigorating. But the more you are OK with it, the sooner the strength comes back. And I trust it will. It’s important not to beat yourself up, not to over-think it (hah!) and not to quit. Other than that, some days are better than others.

-Quinn McDonald will get up and continue doing walking meditation tomorrow.

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9 thoughts on “When Walking Meditation Fails

  1. In a book about mindfulness which I was reading, there was this little nugget of encouragement and hope, ‘There is no such thing as a bad meditation.’ This struck me and has stuck with me!

  2. What is “walking meditation”? I go for walks and I think while I am doing that, but in the hustle and bustle of a northern city there is little peace or tranquility in the downtown core. How do you meditate while you walk? I’d be afraid to trip over a curb!

    • First lesson of walking meditation: Don’t close your eyes. There are as many methods for walking meditation as there are walkers. Some move v e r y s l o w l y and deliberately, some chant. I find a comfortable, brisk pace that I can keep up for a while, put my headphones on (to make it look like I don’t hear other people, but there is nothing playing) and then I walk, paying attention to my breathing, but pushing thoughts out of the way. I need to walk steadily and not be distracted by store windows, so I walk in residential areas. The part of walking that keeps me on the sidewalk, aware of traffic and other people is just enough to keep monkey mind at bay. The rest of my mind is busy with breathing. I do this for three to five miles almost every day, early, around dawn. About half a mile from the house, I end the meditation with a short gratitude thought, and then let my mind drift. I find it refreshing and calming and often come home with new ideas ready to write down.

  3. I had a similar experience the other night. I sat down to meditate and – nothing. It wasn’t like my mind was particularly busy or my that my back would protest. It just didn’t happen. No connection. I guess all the lines were busy and there was no service that night. The universe was offline. I sat there for about 10 minutes and then went to bed. I guess it’s a lesson too. We WANT to meditate. We want to have the feeling. Wanting, clinging. Now why doesn’t that surprise me at all.

    Like you say, it happens but it’s always nice to know it happens to others too. 🙂

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