Friday, February 22, 2013

Walking Meditation

Many people are afraid of trying the sitting practice of meditation because they think prolonged sitting will be physically painful, not to mention boring.  They should be relieved to know that Buddhist practice sessions are punctuated with what is termed walking meditation, in which one walks slowly at a steady pace around the sitting cushions of the room.  This helps us stretch our legs obviously, but also provides a different mental perspective, in which, instead of focusing on the breath while sitting, we instead feel our feet lifting and stepping, first the heel comes down, then the foot is flat on the ground, then the toes come in contact with the earth as we take another step.  

During this process we keep our hands together usually with the left in a fist covered by the right held against our waist, and as we walk we just observe the space around us in a sort of neutral way, not analyzing it or relishing it, just pure observation.  One can take a break from the sitting position every twenty minutes or so, walking five to ten minutes, then returning to the cushion to sit in a cross-legged fashion.  We don't have to attempt what is called a full or half lotus position with our feet pulled up on top of each thigh, just a simple "Indian" style of crossing our legs in front of us, while sitting up on some sort of hard cushion, will be comfortable.  

It is curious to know that the Stoics got their name from the place where they walked up and down during their teaching, at the Stoa Poikile or painted porch in Athens.  Aristotle also had taught while walking about the Lyceum, thus his school became known as the peripatetic philosophers.   While it is true and also unfortunate that the Stoics never developed a sitting meditation tradition, they did practice recollection of past actions at the end of the day, in order to evaluate and see clearly how much they were really adhering to their lofty Stoic ideals.  

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