|Thich Nhat Hanh leading walking meditation at Plum Village|
It was one of those days when even a few moments of clear, calm and open 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" or Zen's "Gate, Gate, Paragate" Today's mantra was the mental note, "thinking thinking," repeated over and over.
And over again.
Fortunately, this is one of the mornings that my choice to give up a personal vehicle was worth its weight in gold.
After this morning's one hour Sit, the walk from 108 House toward the bus was wonderful. It allowed me to connect quite directly, once again, with the Ongoing Miracle. Although it was abbreviated by the offer of a ride by one of my neighbors, I felt a great gratitude for the practice of walking meditation in my life.
Mindful of body and breath, mindful of the sensations of sight and sound and smell, I was again made aware that the Pure Land and the Kingdom of Heaven are to be experienced in this very life.
Sitting, Standing, Walking, Laying Down
Walking meditation is widespread among the various traditions of Buddhism. (I see reflections
of it in the solemn processionals of various other spiritual traditions as well. ) Although in American Buddhism today many folks may consider sitting meditation to be the "real thing", this has not always been the case. In fact, there are 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 at various check-out counters!)
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 emerged 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 more obvious 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, to come to our senses.
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.
(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. )