Sunday, March 6, 2011

Walking Zen.

       The other day I was sitting in a crowed restaurant. I saw this elderly man trying to walk among all the bustling people fighting for their place in the buffet line. His was taking small careful steps, walking very slowly and more over with a focus and intent that can only be described as mindfulness.

       All the people around him were focused on the mechanics of getting their food and getting back to their table to eat. He on the other hand, probably due to his own frailty was focused completely at the time on walking.
      As I observed him I suddenly had several realizations about “walking meditation” or “Kinhin” as it is called in Japanese Zen and “Cankama” in Pali, as practiced by the Theravadin monks of Thailand and Sri Lanka.
       This was one of those slap your own forehead moments when you are absolutely positive you’re the last person in the auditorium to get the joke.
        Frankly I had never really utilized our sessions of Kinhin for much more than an opportunity to bring the circulation back into my lower extremities after a long period of sitting meditation (zazen). My focus was almost always on getting the feeling and blood back in my legs.
       In that moment I saw that walking mediation was truly a powerful form and practice. It became clear to me that done with true mindfulness it could be the bridge between  sitting on the cushion and my everyday life and activity, if done correctly it was Zen in action. It would be the ground for a steady and alert mind as I walked into my daily activities.
        As we baby boomers age and become afflicted with arthritis, broken hips slipped or ruptured discs I can see Kinhin becoming more and more a way we older folks can practice Zen, not just as a break between the “real” Zen, but as a powerful meaningful practice.  It can be practiced almost every where and by almost every one. I know this seems stupid but realizing all this made my heart feel very good.

(A Navajo Indian Prayer of the Second Day of the Night Chant (anonymous)

In beauty may I walk.

All day long may I walk.
Through the returning seasons may I walk.
Beautifully will I possess again.
Beautifully birds . . .
Beautifully joyful birds
On the trail marked with pollen may I walk.
With grasshoppers about my feet may I walk.
With dew about my feet may I walk.
With beauty may I walk.

With beauty before me, may I walk.
With beauty behind me, may I walk.
With beauty above me, may I walk.
With beauty below me, may I walk.
With beauty all around me, may I walk.

In old age wandering on a trail of beauty, lively, may I walk.
In old age wandering on a trail of beauty, living again, may I walk.

It is finished in beauty.
It is finished in beauty.