Special Topics

​Fast Walking Meditation

Fast walking meditation, also known as pao-xiang (跑香) in Chinese, is a practice method unique to the Chinese Chan tradition, which is not taught in other traditions such as Theravada, Tibetan and Japanese Buddhism. In this method, practitioners walk quickly in clockwise direction around a circle, starting with a normal speed, and then gradually speeding up. This approach requires practitioners to remain mindful of nothing but the idea of walking fast. Doing so helps us get rid of wandering thoughts and dispel our bodily and mental attachments. During the walking sessions of a group retreat, both older practitioners and those who have difficulty walking quickly can walk in the inner circle, while others walk in the outer circle.
1. The gesture of the upper body is the same as in sitting meditation: Keep the head upright and tuck in the chin slightly. Straighten the back and waist without letting your abdomen protrude.

2. The whole body remains relaxed from head to toe.

3. Walk at a normal pace, with the arms swinging naturally. (Picture b1)

1. The body leans slightly forward. (Picture b2)

2. Keep your steps roughly one foot length apart.

3. Walk forward with the balls of the feet touching the ground. Ensure that each foot touches the ground as briefly as possible.

4. While walking in a straight line, allow the arms to swing naturally. While walking in a circle, let your left arm swing wider to counterbalance the centripetal force.

5. Start at the same speed as you would normally walk, and gradually speed up. (See pictures b3 & b4)

6. When practicing fast walking meditation, harbor no other thoughts except walking fast.

Focus on the steps at the beginning. Be aware of the sensation of the feet walking. As you speed up, gradually forget the body and breath; the only thought on your mind is "Fast!" Leaning forward and allowing only the ball of the foot to touch the ground will help you speed up. If you use the method correctly, you'll find it easier to keep the ball of the foot touching the ground, while its duration becomes shorter, and your step gets lighter. Keep in mind that doing fast walking meditation is not the same as jogging. Simply let your arms swing at ease with the movements of the body, and make sure your heels don't touch the ground.
Overall, the principle of both slow and fast walking meditation is to keep each pace consistent. In other words, the length and speed of every step should be the same. 
During retreats, walking meditation not only helps relieve leg pain and drowsiness from sitting meditation, but also supports the goals of sitting meditation, as we alternate between motion and stillness, fast and slow.

Resource: Issue 323 of Life Magazine, Dharma Drum Publishing Corporation
Translation: Hsiao Chen-an
Editing: Chang Chia-Cheng (張家誠), Keith Brown

Extended Reading:
Practice Walking Meditation to Experience Chan in Motion

Slow Walking Meditation

Buddhist Circumambulation (Walking Meditation and Buddha Name Recitation)


See all the articles of the column, Walking Like the Buddha.