It was one of those days when even a moment or two of clear and calm awareness, unconstrained by the prattle of discursive monkey-mind, was greatly appreciated.
For the most part though, it seemed like I was doing a mantra practice more than Mindfulness Practice. Unfortunately, the chosen mantra wasn't something exalted like the Tibetan Buddhist Om Mani Padme Hum. It was the mental note, "thinking, thinking," repeated over and over.
And over again.
Saved by the Bell
The hour lasted a long time. I felt a bit like a dazed prizefighter hanging onto the ropes waiting for the bell. It finally did ring. (I had my doubts...) I put my hands in gassho, recited my vows, stood up -- and shook it off. After all, I've learned over the years that there really is no such thing as a "bad" meditation. It's all time on task, slowly and carefully cultivating the ability to see and feel our experience fully -- and accept it for what it is: Nothing more, nothing less than Life itself.
As it turned out, this was one of the mornings that my choice to give up a personal vehicle was worth its weight in gold. My journey into Greenfield for the daily #OMG! Noon Meditation Vigil* often involves a stroll of .3 mile down a country road to catch a bus into town. Today, that walk was an absolute blessing. It allowed me to connect quite directly with the Ongoing Miracle.
Mindful of body and breath, mindful of the sensations of sight and sound and smell, I finally got out of my head and came to my senses. It again became obvious that the Pure Land of Amitabha and the Kingdom of Heaven aren't merely something to look forward to when we die. They are to be experienced in this very life.
The Joy of Walking
Walking meditation is widespread among the various traditions of Buddhism. I see reflections
of it in the processionals of various other spiritual traditions as well. Although many folks may consider sitting meditation to be the "real thing", there are actually four postures of meditation cited in classical Buddhist literature: sitting, standing, walking, and laying down. These days I practice three out of four pretty regularly. (I should try to remember the fourth more often when I'm standing in line, right?)
At Monday Morning Mindfulness we practice the "slow walking" form of meditation that I learned at Insight Meditation Society back in the 1980's. Focusing on the sensations of the feet and lower legs moving very slowly and deliberately, a mental noting practice is used to engage the discursive mind in reinforcing that focus rather than drifting off as it may. The mental note can be as simple as "stepping, stepping" with each step or breaking down each step into it's components. I was taught "lifting, moving, placing", but over the years I came to use "lifting, placing, shifting"to accentuate the quite exquisite sensation of transferring my weight from foot to foot. (I think that first came about as a result of practicing tai chi years ago.)
Of course, walking in extreme slow motion isn't really practical outside the privacy of the practice studio or your own home or back yard. Although you may be able to pull it off in a public park as well, you may draw a lot of strange looks while walking down Main Street or at the mall.
Thankfully, you don't have to walk in slow motion to practice.
Thich Nhat Hanh offers a host of helpful techniques and insights into walking meditation in Walking Meditation: Peace is Every Step. It Turns the Endless Path to Joy. It is now available with a companion DVD and CD as well. There is also a briefer presentation in his article, "A Guide to Walking Meditation".
The bottom line?
Although a walk down a country road with golden-topped hay waving in the breeze below the deep greens of a heavily forested ridge may have made the Presence of the Sacred easier to perceive this morning, anytime we are on our feet moving through time and space we have the opportunity to get out of our heads and into our bodies.
Even getting up from your desk and walking to the door can be an opportunity to Practice. With Mindfulness that door may open into the Miraculous.
* Occupy Meditation Group (#OMG!) Since it's inception during the heyday of #Occupy Wall Street! in the fall of 2011, a few folks have been Sitting for a half hour at noon, Monday through Friday on the Greenfield Town Commons.
(I mused about introducing walking meditation for the first time to a couple of folks at MMM in "Wake Up and Smell the Coffee" last June. There are links to other resources there including YouTube videos on walking meditation. )
Originally Posted August 8, 2014. Revised.