What is Kinhin or Walking Zen Meditation?
Kinhin meditation is a form of walking meditation found in Zen Buddhism, often practiced in conjunction with seated meditation known as zazen.
You may have heard of Kinhin if you’re familiar with Zen meditation.
While seated meditation is often the most well-known form of Zen practice, Kinhin can complement your sitting practice.
In this article, we’ll explore kinhin meditation’s benefits and some tips and challenges for practicing it.
History of Kinhin Meditation
Kinhin Meditation, also known as walking meditation, is a form of meditation practiced in Zen Buddhism. Its origins can be traced back to the Caodong school, a Chinese Chan Buddhist branch that emphasized seated and walking meditation.
During the Tang Dynasty (618-907 CE), the Caodong school practiced walking meditation as part of their tradition. The practice involved walking slowly and mindfully, focusing on the breath and the present moment.
In Japan, Kinhin Meditation was introduced by the monk Dogen Zenji (1200-1253 CE) as part of his teachings in the Soto school of Zen Buddhism. Dogen learned about the Caodong school during his travels to China and was deeply influenced by their teachings.
Dogen emphasized the importance of Kinhin Meditation as a complement to seated meditation or zazen. Practiced between long zazen sessions, walking meditation helped balance the body’s energy and prevent stagnation, allowing practitioners to cultivate a deeper awareness and insight.
Over time, Kinhin Meditation became an established practice in the Soto school of Zen Buddhism, and it continues to be a fundamental part of Zen practice to this day. Other Buddhist traditions, such as Vipassana and Tibetan Buddhism, have adopted the practice.
Preparation for Kinhin Meditation
The preparation steps mentioned below are useful for those practicing Kinhin Meditation independently. The preparation is done differently when the meditation is practiced in a Zen temple or a Dojo setting, which is performed between seated meditation sessions or zazen.
- Find a Quiet And Peaceful Place: Before you begin Kinhin Meditation, find a quiet and peaceful place to walk without distractions. It can be a room in your house, a garden, or a quiet outdoor space.
- Wear Comfortable Clothing: Wear comfortable clothing that allows you to move freely. Avoid tight clothing that restricts your movement or makes you feel uncomfortable.
- Choose Proper Footwear: Choose footwear that is comfortable and provides good support. Avoid shoes that are too tight or loose, as they can affect your balance and make it difficult to walk mindfully.
- Warm-Up: Before starting Kinhin Meditation, it’s advised to warm up and loosen up your body lightly. You can do simple stretches or rotational movements to loosen up your muscles and joints.
- Center Yourself: Take a few deep breaths and center yourself before beginning Kinhin Meditation. Close your eyes and focus on your breath, allowing your mind to become still and calm.
How to Practice Kinhin Meditation?
Practicing Kinhin meditation can be a valuable addition to your meditation practice, helping to break up long periods of seated meditation and integrating mindfulness into your everyday movements.
While the basic technique of Kinhin is simple, some tips and guidelines can help you get the most out of your practice. Here are some helpful tips for practicing Kinhin meditation.
- Posture: To begin Kinhin Meditation, stand with your feet one fist’s width apart at the heel, toes slightly out. Stand upright with your shoulders relaxed and your back straight, as in zazen.
- Hand Position: Start with your hands in gassho position, with your palms together in front of your chest. After performing the Gassho bow, with your left hand, form a fist with the thumb wrapped inside and resting against your chest. Put your right hand flat over the top of the left hand.
- Walking: As you inhale, shift your weight to your left foot. At full exhalation, your weight should be equally balanced between both feet, with your feet firmly gripping the floor. On the exhale, lift your right foot and move it forward one-half step so that the right heel lands in line with the center of the left foot. With the next inhalation, shift your weight to your right foot, and move your left foot forward on the out-breath. The pace should be slow and deliberate so that someone observing outside the room may not notice you moving.
- Breathing: Breathe naturally and steadily without trying to control your breath. Have a long yet natural exhalation. You can focus on the sensation of the breath as it enters and leaves your body or on the rise and fall of your chest.
- Gaze: Keep your gaze lowered and directed toward the ground about six feet before you. Avoid looking around or making eye contact with others, as this can distract from your meditation practice.
- Direction: During Kinhin Meditation, it is customary to move in a straight line. You may follow a one-way or simple round-trip course if you practice alone. However, when practicing in a group in a dojo or temple, moving in a clockwise rectangle around the room is customary. To make turns, step with your left foot and bring your feet together at a 90-degree angle to return to the starting position. Then, begin again with the right foot.
The State of Mind During Kinhin Meditation
In kinhin meditation, the state of mind is also crucial. As with zazen, the right state of mind comes from focusing on the present moment, being aware of the breath, and maintaining a deep concentration on the posture.
During Kinhin, thoughts and distractions may arise, but it is essential not to attach to them. Observe them and let them pass like clouds in the sky. If you find yourself getting caught up in your thoughts, bring your attention back to your breathing and the movement of your feet.
With practice, your mind will become more settled, and distractions will become less frequent.
Benefits of Kinhin Meditation
Kinhin meditation is a complementary practice to seated meditation, where practitioners walk slowly in a designated space in a mindful manner. Kinhin offers a range of benefits for the body, mind, and spirit. Here are some of the benefits:
- Increases blood flow and circulation
- Reduces physical tension and stiffness
- Helps to improve posture and balance
- Enhances mindfulness in daily activities
- Develops concentration and focus
- Improves mental clarity and alertness
- Reduces stress and anxiety
- Enhances creativity and problem-solving skills
- Helps to develop emotional stability and resilience
- Increases self-awareness and understanding of emotions
- Fosters feelings of calm and inner peace
- Helps to cultivate a more positive outlook on life
- Helps to deepen spiritual practice and connection
- Promotes a sense of interconnectedness and unity
- Encourages a sense of gratitude and compassion
- Helps to cultivate a sense of purpose and meaning in life
Tips for a Successful Kinhin Meditation Practice
To get the most out of your Kinhin meditation practice, it’s important to approach it with a relaxed but focused mindset. It’s essential to leave any distractions or worries behind and to allow yourself to be fully present in the moment.
Here are a few additional tips to help you make the most out of your Kinhin meditation practice:
- Walk Slowly And Mindfully: Your walking pace should be slow and deliberate, with a clear awareness of each step and breath. Avoid rushing or walking too quickly, as this can disrupt your focus and lead to a loss of balance.
- Focus on Your Breath: As with seated meditation, focusing on your breath while practicing Kinhin is important. Use the rhythm of your steps to synchronize your breath and your movement.
- Forget About Work or Other Stresses: Kinhin is a time to let go of the distractions of everyday life. Try releasing thoughts or worries about work, family, or other stresses as you walk. Allow yourself to immerse in the present moment fully.
- Use Kinhin to Integrate Your Practice: Kinhin is a break from seated meditation and a way to integrate your practice into your daily life. Take the mindfulness and focus you cultivate during Kinhin into your everyday activities, and see how it can transform your experience of the world around you.
Common Challenges and Solutions
Walking meditation can be a transformative and rewarding practice, but it can also be challenging at times. Kinhin, like any other form of meditation, can present certain difficulties for practitioners.
However, with patience, persistence, and the right mindset, it’s possible to overcome these obstacles and experience the full benefits of the practice.
- Difficulty Staying Focused: With the mind constantly churning out thoughts and distractions, it can be challenging to maintain focus on the present moment during Kinhin. One solution is to focus on the sensations in your feet as you walk or to use a mantra or visualization to help keep your mind centered.
- Physical Discomfort: Long periods of standing or walking can be physically uncomfortable, especially for those with existing physical limitations. To alleviate discomfort, take breaks when needed, adjust your posture or gait, and wear comfortable clothing and shoes.
- Boredom or Restlessness: Walking slowly and deliberately can feel monotonous or tedious for some, leading to feelings of boredom or restlessness. One solution is varying your pace or route during Kinhin practice to keep it fresh and engaging.
- Self-Judgment or Frustration: It’s common to experience negative self-talk or frustration during meditation when we feel like we’re not doing it “right.” Remember that meditation is a practice, and having challenging moments or days is okay. Approach your practice with self-compassion and a non-judgmental attitude.
- External Distractions: Kinhin can be practiced in group settings, and external distractions such as noise or interruptions can disrupt the practice. Try to find a quiet or secluded space to practice in, and remember to bring your focus back to your breath and steps if you encounter distractions.
Walking or Sitting Meditation, Which Should You Choose?
The answer is that both practices are important and complement each other. While seated meditation, or zazen, helps to develop concentration and awareness, walking meditation, or Kinhin, allows us to bring that awareness into motion and integrate it into our daily lives.
However, walking meditation can be a good alternative if you have difficulty sitting still for long periods or have physical limitations. Ultimately, it’s important to balance the two practices and explore which works best for you.
Practicing both walking and sitting meditation allows you to deepen your mindfulness practice and cultivate a more peaceful and centered state of mind. So why not try both and see how they can transform your life?
Incorporating kinhin meditation into your practice can be a powerful tool for cultivating mindfulness, concentration, and a deeper connection to your body and breath.
By taking the time to slow down, focus on each step and breath, and integrate your practice into your daily life, you can experience Kinhin’s many benefits.
So why not try it and see how it can enhance your meditation practice and overall well-being?