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Zen Walking Meditation (Kinhin)

Zen Walking Meditation (Kinhin)

h2>Zen Walking Meditation: Detailed Instructions on how to do Kinhin

PODCAST AUDIO available follow the link: Guided Zen Walking Meditation: Detailed Instructions on how to do Kinhin

In this article, you will learn how to do walking meditation using the Zen Kinhin technique. Instructions vary according to tradition, so we’ll get as comprehensive as possible so that you can find a method that suits you.

Traditionally, monks do Zen walking meditation in between Zazen sitting meditation sessions. The practice is designed to train the practitioner to integrate that meditative awareness into the most mundane activities such as walking.

Walking meditation is something you can do indoors or outdoors, you can even practice Kinhin during your next nature hike for a big serenity boost, as it will enhance your entire experience as you hike.

Zen walking meditation begins with a mudra, or hand position. There is more than one position that is traditionally used. We’ll start with the mudra that seems more popular.

Zen walking meditation begins with the mudra or hand posture. There is more than one hand posture that is traditionally used, and we’re going to start with the mudra that seems most popular.

Shashu Hand Position

Shashu Hand posture

This hand posture is called the Shashu. Form a fist with your left hand and tuck the first section of your thumb into the fist. So you’re wrapping the first couple of fingers around the thumb.

Next you place your fist to your solar plexus. So your wrist is against your body and the thumb is facing up.

The solar plexus is a sensitive point just under the bottom ribs, the back of your hand is facing away from your body and your wrist is touching your body. Your forearm is parallel to the ground.

Now, take your right hand finger joints that are closest to the palms and rest them on your left knuckles, your right fingers should be pointing to the left and resting on the back of your left hand, with all the fingers of your right hand together.

Pull your elbows away from the body slightly, so that the forearms are parallel to the ground.

Now, you want to lock your forearms into place. You want to rotate your hands slightly upward within the same position and find your comfort zone. For some the right hand knuckles will be pointing upward at a 45 degree angle, for others they will be more vertical.

The lock should feel like your forearms could easily stay horizontal without much effort.

It’s not strenuous, if it’s too strenuous then you might want to loosen the tension a little. You just need your forearms to be parallel to the ground.

Alternative hand position.

Place your right hand on your solar plexus with your fingers pointing to the left, the junction where the fingers meet the palm is centered on the solar plexus.

Place your left hand over your right hand with the fingers of that hand pointing to the right. Position it so that you can make a triangle with your thumbs. Your thumbs are pointing upward in a triangle, they’re barely touching, and your hand and the fingers are together with no spaces in between except for the thumbs that are touching each other.

You can also angle this upward a little bit, so that you have the same lock that you use with the other mudra to keep the forearms parallel to the ground and you can use the same lock that you use with the Shashu mudra to keep the forearms parallel to the ground.

Whatever is comfortable, it’s not too strict. Zen has many different traditional styles so it doesn’t matter which mudra you choose.

The Hara

Now let’s look at the traditional Zen walking meditation.


Zen circle

Be sure you have space to walk in a fairly good size circle or oval. You probably want ten feet or more in one direction and 100 feet is even better. For long and narrow areas, you’ll just need to pivot as efficiently as possible without much interruption.

  1. From a standing position, place your hands into one of the two mudras..
  2. Draw yourself upward as if pulled from the crown of the head, as you do this systematically relax the rest of your body, making any minor shifts you need to feel comfortable..
  3. Starting with your tailbone, align all the vertebrate, working your way all the way up the spine and when you get to the top, tuck your chin in a little to keep the spine vertical and lock it in place. Your crown should feel like its level with the sky..
  4. Now that your back is nice and straight, position the tongue. Close your mouth and teeth normally, don’t clinch tightly or anything, just keep your mouth relaxed. Point your tongue upward towards the roof of your mouth and then kind of push it back toward the throat, so that it’s pointing back toward the throat. Don’t strain the tongue or anything, it can help to yawn and stretch the jaw and then swish the tongue around first and swallow any excess saliva, to help settle the body..
  5. Your eyes and your nose are facing straight ahead, but you are looking downward, at roughly a 45 degree angle. The eyes are not focused on anything in particular, so you can let the gaze soften. You will be more focused on feeling what is going on within while you’re walking..
  6. The next step is to walk. You put your right foot forward, lean on your heel then let the ball of your foot touch the ground and then your toes. Lightly step into the ground while being aware of the action, and you repeat for the other foot. You want to become increasingly aware of the heel, ball and toe touching the ground while still paying attention to how you’re breathing. Your shoes can be on or off..
  7. Pay attention to how you’re breathing. Your awareness is focused inward. If thoughts come up or emotions or anything like that, just go with them, it’s okay for them to exist. They are just happening in the present moment and should not be resisted. Just go back to the feeling of the heel, ball and toes while being aware of your breath.

Some Zen traditions are very gentle and slow, you walk very slowly while focusing almost entirely on the feeling of your feet making contact with the ground. Others are more brisk with a faster pace, a little more forceful and your feet are coming down to the ground with force.

My personal preference is for the slow and meditative style. But you can experiment to find the rhythm that works for you.

The length of the stride also varies, you may take baby steps or longer strides, they can be slow or fast, whatever is going to work for you. There are just so many monasteries each doing their own thing.

You can also synchronize your breath with your walking, breathe through the nose, lift one foot on the inhale and then let it touch the ground on the exhale, and then you repeat with the other foot and you just keep repeating that.

  • Focus on feeling each step, heel, ball and toes while being aware of your breath, then come back to your hand posture, make sure it’s correct.
  • Then feel your center of balance by focusing on the hara, feel your hara, then notice again your breath.
  • The repeat the cycle,

There are many Zen monasteries each with their own methods. The bottom line is that you want to become increasingly intimate with the feeling of your feet making contact with the ground, you want to relax into movement, and you also want to be aware of your breath. Regardless of how deep or shallow your breath is, you just want to be present with it.

In monastic settings, Zen walking meditation is often performed in groups. The instructions for this are often very formalized, and again it varies according to monastery.

In groups practitioners generally form a single file. Some rules require that they walk in a clockwise circle, but that’s not always the case.

These are the instructions for Kinhin / Zen walking meditation. Despite all the formalities and the differences between the various traditions, you may notice that the overall concept is very very simple. You are easing into the experience of the feet touching the ground and connecting with the earth and the feeling of the breath.

You can practice this technique alone or with a few of your friends, you can do it in a small room or outdoors, and you can also do it while hiking. Regardless where or how you practice, deepening serenity will follow if you keep practicing.

If you find that your concentration or mind is unable to ease into the rhythm of the walking meditation, then try the Guided Audio version of this article to help with your focus.

Related Mindfulness and Zen posts:


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