Walk softly and be amazed.
In the chaos of our busy lives speed is of the essence and so we can’t always afford to consciously slow our pace, or pack the shopping bags in glorious hyper-real slow-motion. We may pride ourselves on being able to whizz through our days ticking off the tasks as we go, but the downside is that the crispness of life is smudged into a blur. We cannot see, hear or feel anything clearly when travelling at high speed.
The simple act of walking mindfully (literally full of mind or presence) is a powerful brake to living life in constant fast forward. One of the reasons I’d previously dismissed walking meditation in the past was because I thought I already knew how to walk, to place one foot in front of the other, to get from A to B, but as it turns out, I don’t.
I always include periods of walking meditation on my own silent retreats as a way to stretch our legs after sitting meditation, and as a simple way to integrate attention and movement. During a walking meditation I’ll suddenly ring a bell as a signal for everyone to freeze until the chime fades into silence. We are suddenly forced into a much deeper experience of focus and embodiment as we balance on the spot, our muscles tensing as we try to hold ourselves – and our minds – absolutely still.
When the chime ebbs away we continue to walk, or rather to be walked, our feet automatically stepping out in front of us and somehow perfectly managing our balance and weight without ay extra involvement from us.
Gently, the mind falls silent and unifies with the shifting texture of each new step. The walking is simply happening with no conception of arriving any where special. Each step becomes a profound communion with the very ground it arises from, and ultimately returns into.
Soaking our movements in deep attention like this, we may also be struck by the incredible practicality and efficiency of this body we inhabit, as well as it’s vulnerability. This body is given to us freely and yet its fragility is unavoidable. What a miracle it is then to take even one fervent step forward! How humbling to see that each step is fully experienced and yet mysteriously traceless, just like each moment of our miraculous lives.
Where exactly did our last step disappear to? Where will the next step appear from?
Such a slowing down allows an opening up as our sphere of awareness expands to welcome and include the rich details of the world, that our fast paced lives were literally unable to see.
We’ll often walk outside in the garden or amongst the trees, sometimes with the sun warming our faces, other times with the sting of the rain. It’s here that we can have a long sought after encounter with the real world which springs forth to surprise us like a long lost friend. A lone Kestrel soars silently above us, a raindrop resting on a bamboo leaf holds within it a reflection of the entire landscape and the heavy gush of a river in spate becomes the very sound of emptiness.
This is the beauty, wonder and interdependence which is revealed every time we purposefully slow down and resist the minds urge to speed up. The richness of this ordinary beauty is always here, it’s just that now we can see it for ourselves. In fact, it’s only now that we’re really seeing, really hearing, really feeling.
Everything else is just mind-stuff.
To enter the real world – which always seems to be somewhere else, somewhen else – all we have to do is walk without arriving, be fiercely present to each fleeting step and allow the world to soak into us, illuminating both mind and heart. It’s then that we may find ourselves inhabiting a new magical reality which enchants and supports us with every step, bestowing upon us it’s precious gifts which arise from the most unexpected places, revealing a boundless love which has always held us in its quiet, intimate embrace.