If this is so, then modern life is moving faster
|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 high volume 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 simple mental note, "thinking thinking," repeated over and over.
And over again.
Fortunately, after the bells sounded, I had places to go and things to do around town. Since they were all within walking distance, I left the car keys on the counter.
I'm so grateful that I made this choice. I came to my senses as soon as I walked out the door. The morning air was cool and crisp. The neighborhood birds were singing their praises to a clear blue sky. Just opening to the sights and sounds and smells of the world altered my reality immediately.
Mindful of body and breath, mindful of the sensations of sight and sound and smell, I was again made aware of the Ongoing Miracle. I felt a great gratitude for the practice of walking meditation in my 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. Just placing our attention on the sensations in our bodies, the contact of feet on the ground, and bringing into our awareness the visual, auditory, and olfactory fields of our experience alters the nature of our reality. It can be quite healing. In fact, many folks I've talked to over the years who don't "meditate," have told me how special taking a walk is to them. The light in their eyes as they describe their experience makes it pretty obvious. The Practice transcends our labels, our ideas of what we are doing. LOL
If you want to explore "formal" walking meditation, 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 walking through the grandeur of Mother Nature along a country road is certainly quite wonderful, 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. )