Jundo spoke about walking meditation once, but I’d like to share a practice I do regularly (though perhaps not as often as I would like). I guess I can call it “just walking”.
I live in the country, and have the advantage of being near several narrow (one-lane) roads in the mountains. Alas, the road in front of my house is steep, and I have back problems, so I drive about a half-mile up the mountain to a place where the road is relatively flat, with some mild up-and-down inclines, and enough curves to make it interesting.
So I go there and “just walk” for 20-30 minutes, most days when weather permits (not too hot, not too cold, not too windy, especially). For me, just walking is walking along this road, one way, then turning back to where I parked my car. I walk neither slowly nor quickly, but try to regulate my steps to my breathing; I find that gives me a good rhythm. This morning, I was walking at four steps per breath. Since, when I am just walking my breathing becomes slow and deep, that’s not very fast.
I look down at the road, about 5-10 feet in front of me, paying little attention to what I see. I walk, focusing on my breathing, on my steps, and allowing myself to take in the sounds around me (a small irrigation canal on one side of the road gurgles pleasantly, and crickets and cicadas in the fields sing their songs). I keep walking, sometimes looking up at the beautiful surroundings (though after seven years living here, I’ve gotten used to them), but basically do zazen as I walk.
To me, this is different from walking meditation as I’ve often read it described. It is usually described as a slow, almost artificial type of walking, or walking over a short space, back and forth. I try and make my walks into “normal” walking; that is, not too slow, not too fast. I don’t try to “do” walking meditation; I just walk, integrating much of what I have learned about just sitting.
Interestingly, I have always liked walking. When I was a teenager, growing up in Queens, New York, I would walk long distances to and from friends houses. Often at night, I would walk a few miles to get home in the silence and relative darkness. I appreciated these moments, and probably, at the time, I was already doing some sort of “just walking”. While I had a goal, I enjoyed the process rather than the product of my walks.
So, I just wanted to share this practice. Jundo has told us how zazen has to be more than simply sitting; this is one way I try to expand my practice.
Sounds like Kinhin to me, good 'ol walking mediation. Fast/slow. indoors/outdoors does not matter at all. The most important thing is that you are doing this walking with the same attitudes of your "just sitting" Zazen ...
... you walk forward, step by step, yet the world is always right under foot.
Everything I'd read about walking meditation in the past tends to focus on walking slowly, "mindfully"...
This is an interesting topic! Years before I even knew the term "Kinhin" I used to do aimless "contemplative walks". The intention wasn't meditation, rather dealing with a certain anxiety and restlessness while contemplating some apparently important though completely unknown skeletons that I suspected in my weird ancestors' closets.
Over time the walking naturally developed into a powerful meditation technique. My pace would adjust automatically to an exact 60 steps per minute, eyes fixating the ground 2 steps ahead, my usually slacky spine stretched, butt pushed backwards, my concrete-like pelvis suddenly became flexible, legs "felt longer", there was a clear sensation of balancing the torso on the pelvis. My usually messy body image straightened effortlessly. Oh the feet, they weren't just touching the ground – they sort of "conquered the earth". Remember Godzilla? Just like that.
On lucky days there developed a sensation of focus while walking, like a center of gravity, in the lower chest around the solar plexus. The size of a golf ball. The trick now was to keep that point absolutely still while the entire body was moving (I usually imagined myself being speared by an endless metal rail which wouldn't allow that center of gravity to sway). Once a state of perfect balance was reached the body dissolved into music, rhythm, a sensation of permanent falling, while the mind went almost blank: unaffected by ideas of know / don't know, past / present, can / can not...
On one of those walks occurred what I'd euphemistically call a "powerful intuition". Hardly Kensho, but it definitely included many of its unmistakable signs. To my everyday mind it was completely overwhelming in form and content. And of course it did reveal the "skeletons" but the historical details seemed too fuzzy to verify. All in all the event just left me wondering what I had seen so clearly. And it did so for every single day of the past twelve years.
So watch your step!
Those moments of balance and insight are at the heart of our Practice. The show us other ways of looking at things (much as Suzuki Roshi saw in the other post I put up elsewhere in the Forum, or the Swami saw in the talk in today's little talk on the blog). The only thing to mention is that, around here, we don't run after such experiences (pun intended). They come when they come. We don't walk away from them either.
And on those days when we are just walking, or falling on our butts multiple times trying to get down a rain soaked Tsukuba mountain (my experience yesterday, and I have the black and blue marks to show for it), or otherwise just tripping along ... that is a good walk too.
Those moments of balance and insight are at the heart of our Practice. They show us other ways of looking at things (much as Suzuki Roshi saw in the other post I put up elsewhere in the Forum, or the Swami saw in the talk in today's little talk on the blog). The only thing to mention is that, around here, we don't run after such experiences (pun intended). They come when they come. We don't walk away from them either.
And on those days when we are just walking, or falling on our butts multiple times trying to get down a rain soaked Tsukuba mountain (my experience yesterday, and I have the black and blue marks to show for it), or otherwise just tripping along ... that is a good walk too. That is the heart of our Practice too.
By the way, I often lead walks in the Zendo for Kinhin in which we cover barely a few inches. Standing still is also Kinhin. Runinng is kinhin (Nishijima got into Zazen because he was a runner in school, and he finds the balance and experience to be rather similar). Each Sangha has its own pace for Kinhin, and it often depends on who is leading it. Once in awhile, I turn Kinhin into a Conga line too (one two, cha cha cha).