Walking Meditation

by Rev. Kusala Ratna Karuna

Walking meditation allows us to be with our sensations. If we Investigate sensations, we find they can only happen right now. When walking, we can be aware of the pressure on the bottom of our feet. The sensation of pressure is happening right now and brings our attention out of time (past and future) and into the present. At first, it is hard to maintain this awareness of pressure on the feet? The mind wants to think; it feeds on concepts. Sensations happen before thinking... So the awareness of the sensation is blocked by our habitual thinking. Early mediator's must have realized the mind needed something to focus on in order to keep from distraction. They might have said, "Minds will wander if we don't trick them in some way. Let's try counting our footsteps as a way to keep our minds focused on The body." We walk slowly in a circle, and, each time we become aware of the sensation of our foot touching the carpet, we are going to count, up to ten and down to one, up to ten and down to one. If we lose count, we go back to one. This may sound easy, but it really isn't. Our mind isn't going to be adding or subtracting or dividing. It isn't going to be doing anything with the counting. If we are counting to nowhere and walking to nowhere, our mind is going to get bored quickly. It will wander off and think about all sorts of things. Each time it does, we simply bring our mind back to the counting. Within the first ten minutes or so, our minds may think about the laundry that needs to be done. We might think, " If I were home right now, I could be doing my laundry. That's far more important than counting to ten." Or we might think, "I'm going to miss that television program I've been wanting to see all week because I'm walking around in a circle counting my footsteps." When these thoughts arise, we bring our mind back to the object of meditation with compassion and sensitivity. The object of meditation is counting the sensation of our footsteps. Every time we are successful in feeling the sensation and giving it a number, we are in the present; not past, not future." It may not sound like much, but it is. Most people never walk in a circle and count to ten in their entire lives (laughter). We want to use this walking meditation to feel the moment, taste it; what's the flavor? We want to hear it; we want to smell it; we want to see it. We want all the sense doors to be active in the experience. It all starts with the counting of footsteps. When we say, "One, two, three, etc." we are really saying "Present moment one, present moment two, present moment three." Quite remarkable. As we continue developing our skills at meditation, we use our new found awareness even more. We do zazen or sitting meditation, and work with the sensation of breath, entering and exiting our nose. Remember, any sensation we become aware of in our bodies is happening right now. Because of sensation, we keep going back to the moment. We seize it. We investigate it. How does the moment feels at the tip of our nose? How it feels at the bottom of our feet? How it feels when we sit for an hour? How it feels when standing in line at the 7-Eleven store? Sometimes the moment feels very big, gigantic, enormous. Oftentimes it feels tiny. How does the moment feel in a movie? It feels really small if it's a good movie. The sensation of watching a a good movie doesn't last long enough for us; we want to extend it. These moments have a specific flavor. We have an emotional attachment that arises when the feeling is pleasant and an emotional aversion when it's unpleasant. We have good moments, and bad moments. We get a raise in pay; it's a good moment, and lose our job; a bad moment. How does it feel when the moment arises? Yes, it is possible to feel the moment arise, attachment arise, anger arise, desire arise. Whith this level of awareness, we can feel in-between the moments, in the space before feeling, thought, and sensation arises. The space between the thoughts gives us the opportunity to have choiceless awareness. That's the place, between the thoughts! The first thing is to become aware of the thoughts. See from where they're coming? See how they exist, what feeds them? Watch them die and put them to rest. After their death, we have the opportunity to simply be aware. An awareness without the coloration of desire or aversion; pure awareness. We slow down the process of thinking for a while, to watch. We can't stop thinking just because we want to. But there are tools, specific tools when used allow the mind
to relax and come to a place of balance.