Dear Still Water Friends,
Years ago, when I was exploring meditative traditions, one of the traits that drew me to Thich Nhat Hanh was his emphasis on joy. This was especially true in his approach to walking meditation. He told us that our walking should be calm and concentrated, but also light and joyful. He gave us a short poem, a gatha, that set the tone for walking meditation:
The mind can go in a thousand directions,
but on this beautiful path, I walk in peace.
With each step, a cool wind blows.
With each step, a flower blooms.
He also gave us an evocative image, that we should walk like tigers. The working below comes from The Long Road Turns to Joy:
When you begin to practice walking meditation, you might feel unbalanced, like a baby learning to walk. Follow your breathing, dwell mindfully on your steps, and soon you will find your balance. Visualize a tiger walking slowly, and you will find that your steps become as majestic as his.
Over the years my appreciation for walking meditation has grown. It is simple and portable. We can do it very slowly in the meditation hall or we can do it in other places as a formless practice. We appear to be just an average person walking down a street or along a stream. However, as we walk we are aware of our breathing and our stepping; and we are able to savor our sensory experiences.
We can, also, intersperse our walking with moments of rest that allow us to stop and deeply observe our surroundings. When we walk, we generate mindful energy in our feet. When we stop we can consciously bring that energy up to our eyes. It is a calming energy. It allows us to just be with the landscape or the leaf. The Chinese poet Li-Po suggests the communion that is possible when we are filled with mindfulness:
The birds have vanished into the sky,
and now the last cloud drains away.
We sit together, the mountain and me,
until only the mountain remains.
This Thursday evening we will explore joy in our sitting and walking meditation. To give us more time to settle into and enjoy our walking, we will end the sitting meditation a little early and extend our walking a little longer. During our Dharma sharing, we will focus on our experience of walking meditation and of other mindfulness practices that bring us joy.
You are invited to be with us.
This week is also the first Thursday of the month and, as is our tradition, we will offer a brief newcomer’s orientation to mindfulness practice and to the Still Water community. The orientation will begin at 6:30 pm and participants are encouraged to stay for the evening program. If you would like to attend the orientation, it is helpful if you let us know by emailing us at info@StillWaterMPC.org.
An additional excerpt on Walking Meditation by Thich Nhat Hanh is below.
Arriving in Each Step
from a Dharma talk by Thich Nhat Hanh, June 3rd, 2009, Plum Village, France
When you are alone, you might like to try slow walking. When you breathe in, just take one step. When you breathe out, just take one step. You can afford to be as slow as you want. Breathing in you may like to say, “I have arrived.” It means I have arrived in the present moment. In the here and the now. This is not a verbal declaration, it is a realization. You have to really arrive. It means you have to be able to stop completely. . . . We recognize the habit energy of running in us. This step is to stop it. “I have arrived.” I don’t run any more. . . . I have been running all my life. Now I want to stop and enjoy life in the present moment. “I have arrived” has a deep meaning, a deep intention. Make it a step so that you can truly arrive. That is the challenge.
If you have truly arrived, you will know. You don’t need a Buddha to tell you. In order to truly arrive you need strong mindfulness and concentration. . . . In order to arrive 100%, you should invest 100% of your body and 100% of your mind. Your mindfulness and your concentration should be strong in order to really arrive in the here and now. If you feel you have arrived 40% or 60%, don’t make another step. Just stay there, until you arrive.
Challenge yourself. Continue to breathe. This is a revolution. Challenge yourself. If you cannot arrive now, when will you arrive? You are a gentleman. You are a lady. And you challenge yourself: If I cannot arrive now, when shall I arrive? So stay there, until you feel that you have completely arrived. The whole cosmos will witness that kind of arrival. You print the seal of arrival on the ground. All the Buddhas, Bodhisattvas and living beings know, “This is true arrival.” You have truly arrived. When you have been able to completely arrive like that, smile. Smile a smile of victory. And make another step.
If you can make one step, you can make two, and three. But essential is that you succeed in making the first step, arriving. “I have arrived” should not be a verbal declaration, it should be a full realization. You have to be very mindful of your step and your breath. You have to invest 100% of your body and your mind into making your step so that you can fully arrive. And that we can afford to do. Because we can always afford 10 or 15 minutes to do slow walking meditation.