Interview with Lisa Hamilton of the “Conscious Runner”.
“Running is my form of meditation, my meditation practice.” Lisa Hamilton
What brought you to a meditation practice?
Trying to eliminate chaos in her life, and also in her mind, and connect to peace in a nutshell.
You mention a natural disaster, hurricane Hugo in your book, what is the role of that major (traumatic) event in your life?
Lisa says that it did transform her, and she was traumatized by that experience. She still finds herself shivering and having other symptoms when there is a storm. it can leave remnants. It still to this day has somewhat of an effect. She doesn’t necessarily think it changed the way she views things. She’s always known that there’s more to life than money, cars, etc. Just a knowing that there was more to life..
She wasn’t brought up that way, it was a painful upbringing. In part to escape that pain, she had to believe that there was something more to life.
What problem where you perhaps trying to solve with your meditation?
She didn’t approach it as a specific problem, like working on forgiveness, progress, or self-esteem. I wanted to solve the problem of chaos and unhappiness. Once I could connect to source into the present moment, that all of those other things would disappear. Going for the root than dealing with the limbs and for the branches.
I don’t look too much for the branches. She always knew that there was something even larger than that. That if she just addressed the root cause (her chaos and unhappiness), then the rest would just fall away by itself.
You mentioned you had to love yourself, imperfections and all. Did that chaos disconnect you from being connected.
Yes, some of that came from the Oprah show. She love Oprah like a mother. Back in the 90’s, Gary Zuchov was one of her favorite spiritual teachers. The world wasn’t ready for that at the time, she was crucified for it. But Lisa knew there was value for her in those interviews. She resonated with those interview. She played those over and over again, and learn more and more from it.
She said Gary was lighting the path for her, she decided to stick with it. Because this was the way she was going to “get it”. After this things became more clear to Lisa, that she had to love herself, imperfections and all. She is a great soul, that every place is a holy place, not just in the confines of a church. It can be anywhere.
Did those teachings turn you towards a meditation practice?
She turned towards running as a meditation practice, not sitting meditation. She could not resonate with that practice. She learned that meditation is anything that you can use that brings you into the present moment. Meditation is just a tool or a technique. There are many meditators sitting in cross legged positions who are not really meditating. They just look like they are.
So running is my form of meditation, my meditation practice.
Did you just discovered it?
Yes, she discovered it, she just knew it. That was her form of being able to connect with source, and the present moment. And to experience her mind and body the way that she wanted to. Her running is more directed inwardly from the kind of feeling that she wants to have, and those are the tools to help her get that.
So you didn’t have a teacher or way to know how to know to get out of your own way?
Yes, any time your minds are in the way, it prevents us from getting into the now, the present moment. Whether we’re focused on the past or the future. She did go to a class in meditation and she found that sitting meditation did not work for her. Sitting meditation does work for her in a sauna, because of the heat. Which helps her with her thoughts.
Tell me more about how the thoughts when running, prevent you from getting into the zone, or peak performance.
Yes, anytime we have thoughts, thoughts carry energy. Negative thoughts are heavy, and positive thoughts uplift us. If you carry a log of negative thoughts, they can actually make you stop (literally) where your body stops. Next thing you know, your legs feel like legs.
But changing all of that is literally only a thought away. Focus on what’s right and positive, and you can be restored.
Explains her experience with wind and trying to run, and she could barely move her legs. So she started to think she couldn’t do it., but then she stopped, and got her mind right. Then when she got back on her run on the trail, and it ended up being her fastest repetition out of the six, and it was into the wind. And all she changed was her mindset!
It’s the difference whether she goes out for a run or not, it all begins with the mind.
Expand how your beliefs are another layer that affect your thoughts?
Yes, there are different layers, thoughts are like particles in the air. We can’t always control what comes into our heads, but we can control what stays there. Part of what does stay there, is what resonates with the believes that we have underneath it. So you have all these thoughts that are floating around, and we pick the ones that resonate with the beliefs that we already have. And letting those go that we don’t.
If you have positive self-beliefs, then the chance are you’re going to pick the positive thoughts in this massive thought cloud. Whereas with negative believes, you pick the negative ones.
With pulling out something at the root. If you don’t just go after the thoughts, but go after the underlying believes, then all the other thoughts, you don’t have to fight with the problematic thoughts. Once you think your’e worthy, lovable, you don’t have to work at confidence, self esteem, and peripheral things.
What would you say with those who struggle with the self-limiting beliefs?
Replace and address and replace the beliefs with more positive ones, and do the inner work to change the beliefs to more positive ones. Stay in the present moment, which allows those beliefs to transform. Staying in the present moment helps, there is no past and no future, there just is. And our beliefs come from the past.
How do you define success with athletes?
A lot of time we think success should look a certain way, influenced by our parents, teacher, etc which dictate how we define success. Success is defined by how content you are, how much at peace you are, or how whole you are. And not necessarily by what time you got on your run, those too of course are successes. But let’s not miss all the other successes in addition to those.
Yes, the sport won’t always be there. It will transform. You do find that with athletes, they lose themselves in sport, and when the sport is taken away, they don’t know who they are anymore. Any time we’re identified with a role. It isn’t just with athletes. You see it with other professions, so identified with their job, or mothers with children who leave, etc. Anything you become identified with.
At some point you became connected to something much larger than the limits of your skin?
Yeah on some level she has always known. When things become hard, than that is the place she goes to, that I’m more than this body, more than this personality.
So there’s also a physical experience?
Yes, I know it. This is what I know for sure, my experience has been.
This changes your stories and way you view the world too?
Yes, it does. I’m here with a personality and stuff that i need to work through. I’ve been fortunate enough to have been in that space multiple times. and it does change everything. You don’t take things so personally. There is more love, compassion, passion, no fear of death. This is what if feels like, when I’m in that space, fully conscious, fully awake, and fully in the present moment.
I too am a work in progress. There are things that happen that take me out of that. When I’m out of that I do take things personally. Then my life does become stressful and chaotic.
What do you do in those cases?
Then I have to make a decision, “so what are you going to do with it Lisa”? Are you going to wallow in the craziness, or meditate, or do some gratitude journaling to get you back there. What role am I going to be in?
So very conscious decision making?
Yes, very conscious, because I’m experience both. So for me it is which wolf am I going to feed? The one of happiness, joy and contentment and peace? Or the one of greed, and anger, and frustration?
Sometimes I don’t feed the right one..
And then you reap it right as I’m sitting there trying to decide, because it is no fun, it’s suffering!
How do you look at flow?
Lisa looks at it as being in the zone, or being present or connected with source, different ways of saying the same thing. Like saying God or the universe.
Is that the same as being in the super conscious mind, and the other two states of conscious you mention in your book?
Yes, the superconscious mind is like being in flow, being in the zone, being fully present.
Whereas conscious mind, you can still be conscious, but still not be fully present, you don’t necessarily notice everything around you, so many thoughts still floating around etc.
You call that the inner dweller, the 80 thousand thoughts that are clouding one’s mind, like a veil between you and reality.
Yes, the difference between living in black and white world, and living in color. It’s amazing when you’re in the present moment. How the wold comes alive, how much connection there is, love compassion, awe, magic and beauty. You stop looking at just people, and you can see through them, you can see the souls of who they are. And relate to that, it’s really amazing.
Do you have suggestions for those who seek a particular state of flow, and then when they can’t run, they may not get that state?
Yes, that is part two of her book, where she talks about the practices where you get into the meditative technique in order to run. It goes through deep breaths, scanning the body, visualizations, transitioning the body, mindset things like setting your intention.
The way to make it lasting is by doing the first part of the book, make it part of your life. So that by the time of your run, you’re already in that state. The only true way to truly be in that state is to experience it. You don’t want your book, you don’t want to rely on it for ever. You have to experience it. Everything in the book are pointers, ultimately you have to experience it.
The book takes you so far, to the gate, the rest is up to you.
If you then still struggle, you have to go back and and find out what is going on.
Lisa can only speak from personal experience. Chaos and drama are not comfortable, we say we want peace, and presence, and joy. In a weird way sometimes we don’t chose the right thing. Because the familiar is actually comfortable, even when it’s not good.
Sometimes the familiar is better than the unknown, even though the familiar is not good. Why people don’t change, she mentions in her second half of the book.
Why do we sabotage ourselves? Sometimes I make a conscious choice not to have peace, why do I do that. Because feeling like crap feels familiar. And there is some comfort in the familiar even though it does not feel good.
You can create a new familiar with being in presence. Why am I afraid? Maybe if I leave the familiar, I lose my friends, or it ties me to my family, my upbringing. If I leave the comfort zone, the familiarity. There’s a lot of layers to this as to why people don’t change.
Yes, maybe small steps for some?
Yes, there are different ways to progress through their lives. Some folks have one really bad night, and that’s the end of the ego attachment, one devastating breakup, their lives just completely crumbling down.
Interview with John Hancock, a practitioner of the Labyrinth, and advocate of building compassion into organizations, communities, and systems.
This is a summary (not a full transcript) of the interview
How did you get into a spiritual practice?
His father was Methodist minister, which is what he grew up with. He taught tolerance is great, but not enough, but we must go beyond that and embrace the other. He gave up on Protestantism, because he felt too much emphasis on sin. He wanted a more positive message.
He was impressed with the Dalai Lama, and his new Ethics for a New Millenium, and the concept of human universal compassion.
He feels we were misled and misinterpreted by Darwin about survival of the fittest and competition. But he thinks Darwins teachings on cooperation have been under emphasized. John feels competition helps individuals more than groups. He is seeking the commonality that we have with each other. His spirit life, is coming to grips with, yes, i’m distinctive, but on the other hand he’s with other people, that’s coordinated, linked up we have a shared self. Feeling oneness with the animals, other people, the revelations are calming and affirming. That he feels is the antidote to the stress as a citizen. That’s where he goes with his meditation.
What brought him to the tool of meditation in the form of walking the labyrinth?
John describes the labyrinth, as a universal symbol found in various cultures. He took a personalized demonstration, and found out that the practice in part came from women in the catholic church, coming to the US from Europe. In San Francisco there was a labyrinth in the hall, as well as outside. And this woman that he learned from, had been trained there. He learned how to build a labyrinth on his property (north of Spokane, WA) based books, and from a couple of examples in his town of Spokane, Washington. So he found a place on his property, and then used a national geographic type publication to help figure out the exact dimensions to replicate the design on his property.
Why does he prefer that over sitting meditation?
It is easier for him to do walking meditation in the labyrinth design. Because the physicality of walking allows him to focus and let go of his thinking.
How does the practice work?
The path into the labyrinth, is a return or into the unknown. The center of the labyrinth is the spirit energy, or the focus, of the light, or the revelation, of the center. Or the oneness. So it’s a stay in the center, with the expectation of inspiration or energy. The return is then the ability to take that energy back into the external life, to keep it with you, as you return to the next chapter of your life. The integration if you will. Representing the reborn idea.
In Europe there are some examples of labyrinths in the floor, like in Chartres cathedral. It wasn’t just Muslims to make the pilgrimage, the medieval Christians also could follow the steps of a labyrinth. They could do it in a symbolic way by following the steps of Jesus in a labyrinth, to get a similar spiritual revelation. Sometimes the monks would do that on their knees and/or with prostrations to intensify that practice.
How often do you practice this?
He does it when he’s stuck. John can find an idea that way, and also a link to the energy of the land. He’s not distracted there. He feels the energy of the land is important. He fiddled with the entry of his labyrinth in accord with their intuition, where the energy felt right. He found that the best place for an entry was the same as Stonehenge.
Does it help you with creative inspiration?
Yes, he feels it helps with next steps in life, and problem solving. It can also be a group activity. As an opening activity for a group of people who don’t know each other. Group reflection. When a group does it, it is in silence. The revelation is more strong. People will come into, “confrontation”. There are no rules as to how this goes, so it has various ways it works. Sometimes people step off the path, sometimes a aversion of eyes, sometimes an embrace, happens differently with different people. It looks like a wonderful dance, he says. It’s an indiscernible pattern. From Greek times, the labyrinth was an outline, pattern of a traditional dance. He also explains the Minotaur in the labyrinth. Perseus story, breadcrumbs explanation. Design occurs in lots of myths.
How has it affected his day to day life and integration with daily life?
Its’ about centering, about how to give up worry on the surface, giving up worrying. Helps to reassure him that he’s OK, that inspiration is available to him if he slows down and asks. And that nature is supportive, if he takes the time to be receptive.
How has that changed his relationships with difficult people or perceived enemies?
John talks about how the Spokane Indians lived in that area. Walking on the bones of their ancestors. They picked that place in their neighborhood for different reasons, and they all have different practices. They have social gatherings for the neighbors, to get to know each other and their commonalities. Many of them are tolerant and curious.
What was his inspiration to bring diverse people and organizations together in a “friends of compassion” group?
He was inspired by the Dalai Lama, the Buddhist nun Tubten Chodron, as well as the Rotarians, be kind be generous, fair, and give of yourself. So they started a project to get the Dalai Lama to come to Spokane. They couldn’t do it, but people said we can talk about institutions and individuals becoming compassionate.
We can talk about compassion whether the Dalai Lama comes to Spokane or not. So it turned into a discussion group to talk about compassion as a way of changing the community behavior. What does compassion have to offer that some of the other -isms don’t have. We were seeking the commonalities, and not getting hung up on the distinctions. The admonition to be kind is talked about by all the prophets.
There has been a balancing of the differentiation and the oneness. All of these different religions have something good to offer. We all need to find our own understanding. The absolutism that there is a god, or no god, is right for that particular individual, but we can all be right when we find the universal. So you can identify a team by what clothing they wear, but you can’t trademark kindness, that is universal.
What direction do you see this going?
While he is sympathetic of Buddhism, he found the Buddhism that he found, not as political and engaged. He wants more of an activist life. What are the problems in his community, for which compassion had not yet been tried? So he is now doing more political actions. He is working on a “smart justice” system, from a system that is more retributive, to more help them solve their problems, not just punish. So more compassionate way to help people. He further wants to do the philosophical investigation through blogs.
What would you do to change the retributive system?
He feels that poverty is a big one in the justice system. He advocates breaking the cycle of debt, crime, through a smart specialized court. “How is society harmed if this person (without a licence) drives to work?”. He also works with veterans. It’s just a specialized system that does a far better job of discerning the problem and get them to overcome their own problems, and breaking them out of a cycle of poverty. This is also cheaper, because there is less re-offending by actually helping people.
Eala Ruby Heart Sitting and Walking Meditation Practitioner Interview
Eala has immersed herself in the healing arts since 1987, taking it up professionally in 1991 and has been a student and daily practitioner of meditation and what she calls, “human soul work” since 1992. In addition to her energy intuitive gifts she is also trained and certified in Massage and Bodywork, Acupressure, Reiki and Hypnotherapy. She calls herself a Holistic Health Practitioner because that encompasses all her skills and focuses on human health as a whole. From personal experience she also understands some of the impacts of abuse, trauma and chronic illness and the challenges of anxiety, depression and stress.
She writes, “I have learned that Energy-Well-Being is not a goal to achieve or a race to win and does not need to compete with others for it. I realize it in my own way and in my own time. These practices have certainly helped with her own healing and helped Eala stay consistent and true whenever she faces stress, anxiety or any of life’s challenges. Most importantly they give Eala a foundation for living my life with integrity, purpose and harmony. She believes each of us has their own path to follow as we seek truth, wisdom and enlightenment. “
Originally from England, I now live in Spokane with my husband Pat and a friendly dog called Mitzi (who’s breath you’ll hear during the interview). When she is not working she enjoys making jewelry, dance and all forms of artistic expression, practicing Nia, Breema and Yoga, writing, walking and spending time with my husband and friends.
Author and meditator Gail Storey hiked the Pacific Crest Trail with her husband Porter Storey
(Note: below is a summary, not the entire transcript of the interview)
Gail Storey has meditated since the seventies, and has also authored 3 books. The Lord’s Motel, was praised by the New York Times Book Review as, “a tale of unwise judgments and wise humor.” Her second novel, God’s Country Club, was a Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers Selection. She has won numerous awards, and her fiction, poetry, and essays have been widely published.
The book that is relevant to the Meditation Freedom podcast, and in which she talks about her experiences with meditation, mindfulness as well as perhaps the most awesome trails in the US, called the pacific crest trail, is a memoir called, I Promise Not to Suffer: A Fool for Love Hikes the Pacific Crest Trail. The book won a number of awards, the National Outdoor Book Award, Colorado Book Award, Nautilus Silver Award, and Barbara Savage Award from Mountaineers Books. It was praised by Cheryl Strayed, author of Wild, as “Witty, wise and full of heart.”
I Promise Not to Suffer: A Fool for Love Hikes the Pacific Crest Trail is the hilariously harrowing story of Gail and Porter’s hike of the 2,663-mile trail from Mexico to Canada over the highest mountains of California, Oregon, and Washington. In their fifties, they carried Porter’s homemade ultralight gear to climb and descend twenty miles a day, trudge across the searing Mojave Desert, kick steps up icy slopes in the High Sierra, and ford rapids swollen with snowmelt. Through the permeable layer between self and nature, they walked deeply into the wilderness of love, and the question Who am I?
A former administrative director of the University of Houston Creative Writing Program, Gail now writes, hoopdances, and jumps out of cakes, not necessarily at the same time.
“I have a hunger to hike the whole trail” , Porter (Gail’s husband asked her), “It’s been growing in me for years, intensified by the work with people living their dying. But what keeps you going?” [Gail writes] For once I was at a loss for words. What wanted me out here? Not my body, it was falling apart. Not my thoughts, alternately confident and doubtful. Certainly not my emotions, unreliable in their swings from high to low. I wanted to be with Porter, yes, but even more, I felt inseparable now from the vast green and blue and white of the wilderness. I looked out on the lake, shimmering under the moon. I was as sturdy as the trees. I flowed over obstacles like water over rocks. I was as solid as the mountains, as clear as the sky. The wind blew through my heart. I was what knew the wind. What knew the world was here in me, pulsing in the trees, water, rocks, mountains, moon
Questions asked in the interview with Gail Storey
I’d like to start with how you got started on a meditation path, what prompted you to start thinking of doing a meditation practice? and why Buddhism?
You did some long retreats, how did those retreats and practice help you in our daily life?
Moving on to a different type of meditative retreat, let’s talk about your book, “I promise not to suffer, A fool for love hikes the Pacific Crest Trail”.
When you and your husband Porter where thinking about this epic trip along the Pacific Crest Trail, you were initially not totally thrilled with spending time in nature, as you say on the first page of your book, you “never much cared for nature, or rather, thought it OK, as long as it stays outside”. Was it the sense of your own mortality, as well as the circumstances (Porter quitting his job) or also those years of practice influence your decision to join your husband? (since you couldn’t join him on the Appalachian Trail).
Besides spending alone time, and relief from stresses of career, was it also nature that was calling you?
As you went further down the PCT, your relationship with nature changed…
You also mentioned that you wanted to fully experience each moment, instead of the endless “Cartesian chatter” as you call it.
You wanted (as you mention on page 94) the wilderness to make such claims on my body that my thoughts would settle like silt on the bottom of a lake.
Maybe you can describe a bit the experience you had on the trail, starting with suffering. As the book said, you made a distinction between pain and suffering. Explain what you mean with that to the audience.
Where you no longer had a clear sense of inside/outside. Where your persona, your face (as you say), everything dropped away, and your relationship or identification with nature transformed.
How has this affected your sense of authenticity?
Your husband Porter called it a vision quest, what was the main insight he got from this trip?
A Mindfulness Bell sound is a wonderful mindfulness aid. Repeated throughout your day, this sound can be a great way to stop and pay attention and be present for one’s life. There are many shapes and forms of bell sounds available online. I’ll put some options in the bottom of this post. Bells and gong sounds tend to be used, rather than say a loud clang sound, because of the bell’s prolonged sound, which is attention getting, and pleasant as well, reasons to stop and pay attention.
In the west we may be more likely used to church bells, which can reach far, due to them being up high in a clock tower. Here too, this sound can be used as an opportunity to stop briefly what you’re doing just to listen and experience the present moment. In Buddhist culture, a bell or gong is more typically used.
Practicing breathing with the sound of the mindfulness bell
That said, I think many of us in the west do tend to tune the sounds out, so some conscious effort and intention is needed in order to benefit from the invitation of the bells. When you hear the sound of the bell, try to focus on taking 3-10 breaths. Not forced, but just conscious breaths. Letting the belly expand on the in breath, and empty out on the out breath. To get the most out of this mini meditation, it is best to stop whatever you’re doing, and simply stand, or sit without getting distracted. Try doing this for a minute or so, or whenever the sound fades away. Just 10 relaxing breaths can help us feel energized again and feel refreshed.
Using a mindfulness bell in front of a computer
If listening to the mindfulness bell when working at a computer, it may be of help to close your eyes for the duration of the meditation. Eyes tire of watching a computer screen all day, so small breaks for the eyes can be very beneficial. It is also a great opportunity to do a body scan, or check to make sure you are sitting in the best posture. Especially for folks working on a computer, it is helpful to pay attention to the neck and head. They have a tendency to lean forward into the screen over time. So another good reason to use a mindfulness bell, is that you can check your posture and make sure your shoulders are not tightening up from repetitive actions. When typing on your keyboard, the arms should ideally be relaxed, so that the shoulders are not going up, which creates tensions.
Using a mindfulness bell when doing other things
If you’re using a mindfulness bell when going about business in the house, or elsewhere, then a good approach when hearing the bell sound would be to take a mini break, and stop. This doesn’t have to be conspicuous if in a public place, you can simply stop to look around and take 3 deep and conscious breaths. Here too, you have an opportunity to check for internal posture, are you upright and are your shoulders relaxed? What was the breathing like right as the bell sounded? If the breathing was shallow, that is all the more reason to take a time-out and let the breathing return to a relaxed natural state. It is totally normal that our breathing goes out of whack in the busy type of world and times we live on, so there is no need to get discouraged when the breathing is found to be shallow and tight. It is just a reminder that we do need to take care of our breathing regularly. And if a mindfulness bell help with this, than that is one more great aid in this mindfulness practice.
Below is a list of some options for mindfulness bells.
This video has 3 bells every 30 minutes for 8 hours long. So you can turn it on in the morning and run it until the end of the work day. You can then either repeat it for the evening, or run it again the next day if for example at the office. The video shows a great sign to aid in being present, “This is it!”.
Since these Apps will change over time, describing them below would quickly become inaccurate information. Some are very simple, a random bell (or through specified interval) or buzzer throughout the day. Some have added guided meditations and instructions, visualizations, and even added videos or podcasts. My recommendation would be to check each of these Apps out first, read their description and revision information, and if possible try the free version. Also, check the reviews and ratings when you find the App in iTunes or the Google Android Play store. The ratings will quickly tell you what features people like, what’s missing, and whether it is an App you wish to purchase. Note that the Apps below are in quotations, as that is the actual name of each Mindfulness or Meditation App.
There are a number of physical meditation timers as well that you can use as mindfulness timers (See here) as well. Hope this helps, and I’d love to here in the comments below if you use an App or mindfulness aid that helps you!
Walking meditation in a nutshell is consciously paying attention to each step you take in life, learning to be mindful to the matter at hand. So it is in a very literal way of walking, but also in a meaningful way that extends throughout other areas in our lives. As mentioned, learning to be mindful in each step helps not just with the physical act of walking, but ripples out into other areas in our lives. There are different ways to do walking meditation. There are both physical and mental things to pay attention to.
"Oh, beauty before me, beauty behind me, beauty to the right of me, beauty to the left of me, beauty above me, beauty below me, I’m on the pollen path" Navaho Wisdom
Why do Walking Meditation?
1. Too much sitting. Most of us in our daily lives and jobs do a LOT of sitting. Our lives have become very sedentary. I’m no exception. My day job involves primarily working on a computer, and sometimes for long stretches at a time. Then I either sit in a car, and drive home (I try to bicycle whenever I can). Then at home, I do some work around the house and in the garden, and then often get back to the computer, or sit and talk with my wife, and read, etc. On top of all that, if you practice sitting meditation as well, well, that is even more sitting! So walking meditation is a way to stay active, and alert, and become present.
2. Another reason why to learn walking meditation, is to use this practice as another aid in meditation. Which is to say, another way to appreciate our life, the present, and everything we love and have. While it is great to practice meditation or prayer, or listen to meditation music in the mornings, or when we’re home. This leaves a long day in the middle that can quickly fill up with distractions, and business that can fill up our minds. So adding walking meditation throughout the day can really help us maintain presence awareness, where sitting meditation would not be feasible. Walking meditation can do for our minds the same thing sitting meditation can do, it can help us stay alert and present throughout our day.
The risks of too much sitting..
With all the research that has been coming out about the dangers and risks of too much sitting, walking meditation is becoming an important tool in avoiding these risks.
In my particular case, I have a back that is more prone to back issues, due to a sciatic nerve that is easily agitated with too much sitting. As happens with a lot of computer workers, my neck and head are also prone to lean forward (especially in front of a computer screen). Hence, I not only want to get up frequently, but feel an urge (signal from my lower back and maybe a stiff neck) to get up and moving at least once or twice an hour. What I do when I walk around the office building is primarily walking meditation.
How to Practice Walking Meditation
Walking meditation can be done at any pace, however, it may make sense to try slowing down when doing walking meditation. That way you can learn how to do it, you learn to pay closer attention. And as a result are more likely to do well when having to walk fast. One of the reasons for slowing down during your walk, is that it is easy to miss what is going on in our bodies (and around us). Let’s break this down into a few components:
Breathing and posture during walking meditation
During walking meditation, pay close attention with your awareness to your breathing, both your in-breath, and your out-breath. Where are you breathing from? Your belly, or your chest? Just as in sitting meditation, make sure you aim for breathing from your belly. Is your belly relaxed, or tight? What about where you walk, if you are crossing a street, is your breathing more uneasy then walking down a busy street or a quiet street? What about a nature path? These may seem like insignificant differences, but they can be very different. I rarely see anyone crossing a street relaxed. Especially when crossing, many people hurry. I think we are conditioned to feel like we’re holding up traffic if we don’t rush. While this may be great for the car driver, and there are good times to walk defensively in case the driver is not paying attention or texting while driving. It is good to ask why? Why is my walking indicating that someone driving a car is more important? This is just an example, but it give you an idea of the kinds of observations that you can have when you slow down and pay attention to what is happening in your body just with the breath.
Noticing the world around you during walking meditation
Besides being aware of what is going on inside your body to reduce stress and incorrect posture, it is also a great time to become aware of everything around.
Hear the sounds such as your own footsteps, those of other folks, the car tires rolling around next to you, the distant train sounds. Try hearing without labeling or letting them turn into thoughts and mental diversions. In other words, being present for each new sound, instead of getting stuck on one sound, or tuning out after one sound you like/dislike.
Smell the scents, the asphalt, the fresh snow, or the blooming trees and flowers. These scents also bring us back into the present moment.
Feel the wind, or gentle breeze flowing around your ears, or through your hair, through the leaves at the trees above you. If there is no wind, what does the stillness feel like? What does it feel like to walk? Notice as much as possible all the various parts in your body, some may be painful, some may feel pleasant. Meditation is just noticing, acknowledging, and accepting these things, then letting it go. Not dwelling anywhere in particular. If it is something that requires attention, such as a hurt ankle, or something else that requires medical attention, then of course we need to take action.
Touch the earth with your feet of course. But notice the whole movement of your body, so that each step is unique, valued, and acknowledged. It’s the journey in other words, not so much the destination that really matters when doing walking meditation.
See the world around you as it really is. Again here it helps to slow down when you walk, you don’t need to walk in a funny way to fully experience the joy of walking meditation. Just occasionally try walking at a leisurely pace. Perhaps you see the leaves twirling, or you see the sun reflecting off the glass windows on the buildings across the street, or you see the smile on the mother’s face. Or you see the beautiful sidewalks, or the cracks on the wall in the corridor. Just remember, you are seeing in way higher resolution than the latest High Definition TV. Easy to miss the beauty all around us at any moment.
The faster you walk, the harder it is to process and appreciate. But also, the more your mind is in turmoil, the harder it is to process anything you see, hear, taste, smell, or touch. Jesus is attributed to have said in the Gospel of Thomas, “The kingdom of the Father is spread upon the earth and men do not see it.” Walking meditation is one way to start “seeing it”.
(I would love to see what you are finding when you do walking meditation. Please post a comment with your experience below!)