The Mindfullness Walk
I’m currently reading The Pocket Thich That Hanh and it is deepening my practice in every way. I was particularly affected by the author's words about the breath and meditation.
As you know if you've been reading here, I consider a regular, consistent, daily meditation one of the key paths to power. Basking and presence are two others. And I've been building these habits nicely and steadily, so it was time for a big step up.
That tends to be how it goes for me. I learn in layers. And the learning never ends. As I assimilate one level of understanding, a whole new level appears . It's like peeling an infinite onion. Only, fewer tears.
According to Hanh, When we breathe, we could simply think, Breathing in, I know that I am breathing in, and Breathing out, I know that I am breathing out.
He doesn’t recommend counting the breaths or making the breaths do specific things, but rather suggests we allow the breaths to come naturally. After a minute or so of this “...your joy will increase; your breathing will become deeper and more gentle; and this gentleness and depth will influence your body.”
Even just reading the words felt like a release of tension to me. And I repeated them to myself during various points of the day after I read them, just stopped what I was doing and noticed, I am breathing in. I am breathing out. That's all. I'm here. And I'm breathing.
I incorporated that approach into my meditation this morning, just letting my breaths come as they wanted to come and thinking, I am breathing in and I know that I am breathing in, interpersed with another mental mantra from Hahn, I am in here in this place. I am here in this time. I am here. I am now.
I could not believe how much easier my mind let go than usual! I quickly relaxed into a deep and lovely meditation. I did a good portion with my eyes open, basking in the natural beauty all around me. Just being there in that place at the moment. A hummingbird came and fed from the fuscia blooms of a butterfly bush. I heard crows and then clearly, a raven.
Using this method of not counting my breaths, but noticing them without judgement and of thinking I am here and I am now. I am breathing in and I am breathing out, my mind-chatter dropped to near zero for almost the entire time. I've never managed to quiet my mind quite that easily or completely before. It was wonderful!
The Mindfulness Walk
When my meditation time was over, I followed further advice from the book and took what Hanh calls a walking meditation or a mindfulness walk, around the borders of our lawn.I sent my awareness to the sole of my foot as I stepped down, and then to the other foot. I walked fully present in the here and now of that time and place. I walked barefoot all around the pond, then followed the hedgerows that mark out the boundaries between us and the farmland that surrounds us. I noticed that certain types of grasses felt like walking on the softest of cushions. The baby clover for one, and other tight growing ground cover I couldn't identify.
Hedgerows are Magical
They are narrow strips of growth a few yards wide all along the border between our lawn and the farmer's meadows. In these border strips, anything that wants to grow is permitted to grow. Ours are filled with blackberry briars, elderberry bushes, thorn apples, wild apple trees, poplar saplings, goldenrod, Queen Anne’s lace, river willows, wild asters, black-eyed Susans, red clover, fleabane, and lots more I haven’t teamed. I spotted some lamb’s ear this morning.
Wherever there is a tree in the hedgerow, its limbs shade the ground, so the briars and weeds don’t grow there. This creates magical little tree shaded clearings, secreted away behind veils of wild growth. As I walked this morning with my attention fully on this time and this place, I bent low and peered through the brambles into those magical pockets in the hedgerow. I almost expected to find a fairy village. I am sure there were nature spirits all around me. I’m sure there always are, but I’m usually too busy to notice.
We are always struggling
Aren’t we? We are always working to get something done, to fix this or to finish that or to start something else. Even when we are sitting still, our brains or working, working, working. We so seldom just sit and be completely and fully where we are, when we are, as we are. None of the things we worry about are here, now. None of that stuff in the news is here, now. Here, now, all is well. I am breathing in. I am breathing out. I am here. I am now. I am walking on this soft soft grass, and I am smelling the apples and berries starting to ferment under their trees. Like a winery. And now I smell autumn on the air. I am noticing the beautiful plants, a hundred kinds or more. I am feeling the sun on my head and the breeze on my face. I am inhaling that breeze. I am exhaling. I am here. I am now.
There is only here and now. Right here and right now is all that actually exist for any of us at any time in our entire lives. The past is gone. The future is not yet born. Not even the future minute exists, nor even a single future tick of the second hand. Only this very moment.
Our lives are a parade of such moments in time. This moment. And this one. And now this one.
When we settle down, quiet our minds and really experience those moments fully, one after the next in smooth succession, it is only then that we truly experience our lives.
I knew all that.
I’ve probably blogged these notions before. But the way Thich Nhat Hanh writes about it just seemed to give me a deeper level of understanding than I'd had before. This morning, I felt I went deeper and experienced a more profound level of presence than I had ever done before, and it remains with me into the day at this new and improved level.
This is good stuff.
When I finished my mindful walk, I went inside to grab the laptop and brought it back outside to write this down. It was just too beautiful a day to be inside. When I finish composing, I’m going to repeat the walk so I can get a few photos for this post. I didn’t bring the phone with me the first time. I think that’s an important aspect of the walking meditation. No phone. No interruptions. Complete and full presence.
Try a Mindfulness Walk
Start by sitting and talking a series of deep, cleansing breaths
Sit in silence for a few minutes, observing your breaths and thinking I am breathing in, I am breathing out. When you feel your mind let go, begin your walk.
Walk barefoot if the terrain is feet-friendly. Be mindful of the soles of your feet as you step down. Feel the grass, and the earth.
Be fully aware of everything around you.Go slowly and observe. Listen and small. Think I am here. I am now.
As you walk, remain mindful of your breathing. Just be aware of it. I am breathing in. I am breathing out.
After you've finished, take a moment to write down your feelings about the experience. And then, if you feel so inclined, head back here and let me know how it went in the Comments section.