Dear Still Water Friends,
It was brisk February morning in 1996. I was at the Winter retreat at Plum Village. Thich Nhat Hanh had given a Dharma talk in Vietnamese. After a tea break, he led walking meditation to a field 25 minutes away. As was the custom in those days, we then did mindful movements together. It was almost time for lunch and most of the lay and monastic practitioners had drifted away. Unexpectedly, Thich Nhat Hanh motioned to the forty or so of us who remained to gather around him. Then he began a mini-Dharma talk — really more of a pep talk — about walking meditation.
He spoke in English, softly and with great intensity, looking directly at a few of us who were standing closest to him,
With each step you have to say: I have arrived. I have arrived. Whether your home is in Washington, D.C. or New Delhi, you have to come home to this moment. You have to be here with each blade of grass. This is Nirvana. This is the Kingdom of God … You have to be your own hero. No one else can do it for you. You need determination. You need concentration … This is the essence, the heart. If you can take one step, you can take two. The present moment is a teacher that will always be with you, a teacher that will never fail you.
I was touched by Thich Nhat Hanh’s generosity in giving us that little talk, and ever since, I’ve had a special fondness for walking meditation, especially slow walking as done in a meditation hall. When I am able to enter into it fully, there is a naturally integration of breath, mind, and body. Preoccupations and self-commentary fall away. Ease and joy arise.
This Thursday evening, after our sitting meditation, we will extend our walking meditation time. As we walk, will will practice line by line with Thich Nhat Hanh’s walking meditation poem:
I have arrived. I am home.
In the here, in the now.
I am solid, I am free.
In the ultimate I dwell.
After our walking meditation, we will share our experiences with slow walking and with learning to trust the present moment.
You are invited to join us. An excerpt on Walking in the Kingdom of God by Thich Nhat Hanh is below.
Walking in the Kingdom of God
By Thich Nhat Hanh from No Death, No Fear
If you want to know where God, the Buddhas and all the great beings live, I can tell you. Here is their address: in the here and now. It has everything you need, including the zip code.
If you can breathe in and out and walk in the spirit of "I have arrived, I am home, in the here, in the now," then you will notice that you are becoming more solid and more free immediately. You have established yourself in the present moment, at your true address. Nothing can push you to run anymore, or make you so afraid. You are free from worrying about the past. You are not stuck, thinking about what has not happened yet and what you cannot control. You are free from guilt concerning the past and you are free from your worries about the future.
Only a free person can be a happy person. The amount of happiness that you have depends on the amount of freedom that you have in your heart. Freedom here is not political freedom. Freedom here is freedom from regret, freedom from fear, from anxiety and sorrow. "I have arrived, I am home, in the here, in the now."
"I am solid, I am free." This is what you feel, what you become, when you arrive in the here and now. You’re not just telling yourself this — you will see it; you will feel it. And when you do, you will be at peace. You will experience nirvana, or the kingdom of God, or whatever you may like to call it. Even if you are not caught by a lot of worries, if you are not solid and free, how can you be happy? To cultivate solidity and freedom in the present moment is the greatest gift we can give ourselves.
"In the ultimate I dwell." The ultimate is the foundation of our being, the ground of being. The ultimate, or God, or the divine, is not separate from us. We are in it all the time. It is not somewhere up there beyond the sky. But we have to live in our true home in order to dwell in the ultimate, in order to live in the ultimate.
It is like the wave and water. If we look into a wave, we see that a wave can have a beginning and an end. A wave can be high or low. A wave can be like other waves, or it can be different. But the wave is always made of water. Water is the foundation of the wave. A wave is a wave, but it is also water. The wave may have a beginning and an end, it may be big or small, but with water there is no beginning, no end, no up, no down, no this, no that. When the wave realizes and understands this, it is free from the fear of beginning and end, up and down, big and small, this and that.
In the historical dimension, we have time and space, and pairs of opposites: right and wrong, young and old, coming and going, pure and impure. We look forward to beginning and we are afraid of ending. But the ultimate dimension does not have any of these things. There is no beginning or end, no before or after. The ultimate is the ground that makes the historical dimension possible. It is the original, continuing source of being. It is nirvana. It is the kingdom of God.