Each Friday, we share three topical longreads in our Weekend Reader newsletter. This week, LionsRoar.com editor Sam Littlefair thinks about the practice of walking. Sign up here to receive the Weekend Reader in your inbox.
Last weekend, I went for a stroll along the Irish seaside. The walk was so beautiful, I didn’t want it to end. As I walked, I frequently found myself pulling out my phone to snap a photo of the vast horizon, the craggy cliffs, and the rolling green fields — though I knew it would never capture their beauty. Eventually, I gave up, and instead I just slowed down. I recalled instructions for walking meditation and brought my awareness to my footsteps, paying attention and moving slowly.
As Leslie Booker recounts below, the Buddha said “A monk knows, when he is walking, ‘I am walking.’” Some Buddhists practice walking meditation for short periods in the shrine room. Some practice it on long pilgrimages to holy places. Last year, a researcher at the University of Queensland located blazing rings of light on heatmaps of human movement where Buddhist pilgrims circle sacred mountains and stupas (see below).
I think that’s a beautiful demonstration of how each mindful step can contribute to something brilliant and powerful. Just look at Buddhist monk Sutham Nateetong who is currently walking across the USA to promote peace. Each of his steps carries a message of love and friendship, in a time when that is sorely needed.
Whether walking around your living room or across a continent, I hope these articles might inspire you to take each brilliant step mindfully.
—Sam Littlefair, editor, LionsRoar.com
Leslie Booker offers step-by-step instruction.
In the four foundations of mindfulness, as laid out in the famed Satiphatthana Sutta, the Buddha offers four postures for practicing meditation:
A monk knows, when he is walking,
“I am walking”;
he knows, when he is standing,
“I am standing”;
he knows, when he is sitting,
“I am sitting”;
he knows, when he is lying down,
“I am lying down”;
or just as his body is disposed
so he knows it.
Walking meditation is often described as a meditation in motion.
The practice of mindful walking, says Thich Nhat Hanh, is a profound and pleasurable way to deepen our connection with our body and the earth. We breathe, take a mindful step, and come back to our true home. Read on and learn how.
Walking meditation unites our body and our mind. We combine our breathing with our steps. When we breathe in, we may take two or three steps. When we breathe out, we may take three, four, or five steps. We pay attention to what is comfortable for our body.
Petra Schaumbur walks with Zen Peacemaker Priest Claude AnShin Thomas from Yonkers, New York to Albany, California. From the September 1998 issue of Lion’s Roar magazine.
If breakfast is available we eat, and then we prepare sandwiches for lunch, if those are available, too. We start walking no later than nine and keep on walking until our lunch break at one-thirty, when we have a rest for about thirty minutes. Then we continue walking till we reach the next town. It’s important not to arrive too late, so that there is still time to approach the local churches and ask them for help, a place to stay and some food to eat.