Day 11 Meditation
We return today to a walking meditation for our Day Eleven practice. This meditation has a different nuance than the walking meditation from earlier in the week. Instead of focusing on the specific sensations in your body while walking, the idea here is to get a more global sense of your body as a whole, as it moves through space.
The invitation here is to look at the world with quiet eyes. Our gaze often hardens when we get lost in craving or dislike, so as you walk, simply notice when this happens and soften your gaze again to shift to a more receptive mode.
Newcomers to walking meditation may feel a bit wobbly – and the more slowly you move and the more aware of your feet you become, the more unbalanced you feel. If that happens, speed up a bit. Do the same if your mind starts wandering a lot, or you’re having trouble connecting with your bodily sensations. Then slow down again when your concentration is restored. Experiment with pace until you find the speed that best allows you to keep your attention on the feeling of walking – the speed that allows you to remain most mindful.
Question & Answer
Q: When I’m doing walking meditation, it’s hard for me not to notice everything going on around me. What should I do?
A: There are certainly times when something in the environment draws our attention dramatically. In that case, you might just stop walking and pay full attention to whatever it is for a few moments before letting it go. But if you find yourself stopping every ten seconds because your attention is being snagged by every bird, leaf, or passerby, you might need to shift toward paying more attention to the sensations of movement—not shutting out everything that’s happening around you, but not letting your surroundings draw your attention away completely. Aim for a balance.
Welcome back. There’s a quotation from the late theologian Howard Thurman that we will begin this exercise with. “Look at the world with quiet eyes.” As we do today’s walking meditation see if you can look at the world with quiet eyes. Soften your gaze when you notice it has become hardened. That happens when we get lost in craving. Oh, there’s a garden. I need to grow a garden. Wait, I don’t have a yard. I need to move. Or we get lost in dislike. That’s a stupid looking dog. We notice this and again soften our gaze so we are aware of what’s around us in a more receptive mode.
The baseline of this type of walking practice is feeling your body moving through space. You can maintain a normal speed of movement and needn’t try to pinpoint exact sensations. Get the more global sense of your whole body moving through space. If you’re outside, walk at a normal pace. What you can feel is just the sensations of your feet touching the ground. Touch, touch, touch, touch, or your body moving through space. These are actual sensations we’re feeling that we’re looking toward. This is not an anatomical exercise to know that this muscle group’s doing this and that muscle group’s doing that, but we’re looking at actual sensations. Hardness, softness, tightness, relaxation, whatever it might be. Again you don’t need to name them but feel them. You simply walk back-and-forth if you’re inside or whatever length you’re walking if you’re outside. Feel your feet against the ground, touch, touch, touch, touch or your body moving through space. If your mind wanders, if you become lost in thought, you can just recognize that and begin again.
After some time, if you wish and it seems right, you may slow down somewhat. Feel the sensations of your leg going up, placing down, heaviness, lightness, pressure, hardness, softness. Without naming them you can feel them. If you wish, you can use a quiet mental notation right at the beginning of each part of the movement, lifting, placing, lifting, placing. But let your quiet attention simply feel even as you are aware of everything going on around you.
Again after some time if you wish, you can slow down even more not so much that you lose your balance but enough so that you can feel the exquisite sensations of the movement, lifting, moving, placing, shifting your weight. Then the next leg, lifting, moving, placing, shifting. If you notice your attention wandering, it’s perfectly all right. You recognize that, you let go, you bring your attention back. This very light attention, light awareness to experience the sensations of each step. You can still hear what’s going on around you, you can see it, you can respond if you need to. Stepping off the curb, crossing the street, whatever it might be but you have a touchstone.
You can conclude the walking meditation. Notice if your body feels more alive, if you feel more connected and see if you can bring some of this awareness into your day.