In an outdoor space, walk at a very relaxed pace, as if you were walking casually through a park. Unlike sitting meditation, where the focus is inward, gatha walking encourages us to engage the senses -- seeing, hearing, smelling, touching. To help avoid getting lost in daydreams, we silently repeat a verse, or gatha, over and over. The gatha is usually very short and simple, but the words are meaningful, and help keep the focus on really being here.
The gatha that I've been using for some time has four lines:
When I walk, the mind will wander.
With each sound the mind returns.
With each breath the heart is open.
With each step I touch this earth.
It is best to repeat the verse for the duration of the walk, even if you start feeling very open and spacious; otherwise, it's easy to become more spacey than spacious. As we walk, we bring awareness to the environment, using the lines to direct our attention. For example, the first line…is a way of simply acknowledging the fact that our mind constantly wanders. There's no judgment that the mind's wandering is bad; it's just an objective acknowledgement.
With the second line…we direct attention to the sounds, to help us back to present-moment reality….
With the third line…we are not trying to maintain a disciplined focus on the breath. Rather, the breath is very lightly held as it is felt in the center of the chest…. With this line, as with the others, we stay with it for the duration of a few breaths before moving on to the next.
On the last line…we can feel the experience of literally walking on the earth, feeling appreciation for the preciousness of the opportunity to be alive. There is an unmistakable sense of presence, of "hereness," that is the essence of Being Awareness. . . .
In gatha walking, we are not trying to get something, nor are we walking toward a particular destination; rather, each step is complete in itself. Each step is of ultimate value. At the same time, with each step, we are cultivating a much larger sense of what life is.— Ezra Bayda in Zen Heart