"Mindfulness Practice isn't just about escaping to some magical inner realm devoid of life's challenges. The Practice is about progressively opening your heart and calming your mind enough to engage Life directly, to be more fully Present in a kind, clear, and helpful way."

Your MMM Courtesy Wake Up Call! Musings on Life and Practice by a Long-time Student of Meditation.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Wake Up and Smell the Coffee!

Walking with ease and with peace of mind on the earth 
is a wonderful miracle.  Some people say that only walking on burning coals or walking on spikes or on water are miracles, but I find that simply walking on the earth is a miracle.     
---Thich Nhat Hahn


Several times in the past couple of months, I've had the opportunity to be present as someone experienced walking meditation for the first time.  After sharing a few words about the various forms of walking meditation, I introduced to each the "slow motion" walking meditation practiced in South Asian Buddhism* that I had learned at Insight Meditation Society years ago.  We then took a stroll across the glistening wooden floors of the studio at Community Yoga from one wall to the other, turned, and returned.  It only took a few minutes.

Each time, I then had the pleasure of meeting the eyes of someone who had experienced, at least for a moment, what Suzuki Roshi may have described as "Beginners Mind."  There was a childlike sense of wonder in their eyes.  It was obvious that each had touched a form of Mindfulness.  They had been Present to Life in a fuller and more complete way. 

The spiritual teacher George Gurdjieff claimed that most humans are "sleepwalking" through their lives.  I think this is a particularly appropriate metaphor for the distracted, semi-conscious manner in which we are prone to scurry through our lives.  Having been trained in our families and schools to focus our awareness primarily on our thoughts in a materialistic society that stresses speed, production, and the accumulation of goods and status, all too often we move ahead without being fully aware of the totality of the present moment.  Lost in our thoughts, much of the wondrous sea of sensations that constitute our lives each moment remain beneath the level of consciousness.  We are "sleepwalking" as we move ahead. 

The good news is that it doesn't have to be this way.  We each have the ability to awaken. It can happen this very moment.

Although the slow motion technique that we've shared in Monday Morning Mindfulness for a few moments during some of our sessions is a useful and powerful technique, there are many other forms of walking meditation available. 

Thich Nhat Hahn's Walking Meditation is a classic text and there are a number of YouTube videos available of his instructions. For those who identify with the Christian tradition, former Trappist Monk, James Finley, Ph.D. devotes a chapter to walking meditation in his book Christian Meditation. There is also an interesting Christian approach shared by Eric Munro on the web at Christian Walking Meditation.  

In actuality, any time we are walking we have the opportunity to notice the sensations of our feet as they meet the ground, feel our legs as they move through space.  Each time we walk from here to "there" (which, of course, is just another here), we have the opportunity to notice how our thoughts carry us away from the experience of our body breathing and moving through space. Each moment as we move to close the space between us and our planned destination, we have the opportunity to expand our awareness to include the sounds we are hearing, to actually be in touch with the incredible rainbow of colors that our eyes are seeing in any one moment, to be aware of  the multitude of fragrances that surrounds us.  It can happen in the majesty of a hike along the seashore. It can happen as we move along the concrete sidewalk downtown.

With each step we have the opportunity to Be Mindful of the Ongoing Miracle of Life itself!

How cool is that? 

*The term Buddha actually means "Awakened One".  

 

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