“Take rest. A field that has rested gives a bountiful crop.”- Ovid
Contemporary life has become a whirlwind of activities, both internal and external. We have a lot of activities that we must accomplish for survival. However, what survival means for the 21st century is far different from what it meant 100 years ago. We do not produce most of what it takes to survive, we exchange activity we do for other people for coupons we then exchange for our needs . We are disconnected from the basic activities of producing our own food, killing our own meat, building our shelters, and healing our own illnesses. Despite all the modern improvements and creature comforts, we are more stressed out and in less direct control of our lives then it any time in human history. What’s the remedy for all this? Learn to SLOW DOWN.
Taking a break from all this activity has become virtually impossible. Try finding a quiet place, I mean a really quiet place, where you can be undisturbed by people or man-made sounds for a half an hour. My hunch is that you would have to travel quite some distance to find such a Shangri-La type of place. Doctors, counselors, therapists, and wellness experts of all types recommend meditation as a way to slow down both mind and body, improving physical and emotional health. Most meditation methods begin with these instructions: “Find a place where you can sit undisturbed for 10 to 15 minutes…” Many people begin the pursuit of a meditation practice with all the right intentions, but become frustrated and give up because finding that mythical place is virtually impossible. Man made disturbances, whether it is automobile sounds, family members, dogs, cats, machines, or whatever are virtually everywhere. Don’t believe me? Try to find a quiet place where you can spend 15 minutes and solitude without leaving your immediate surroundings.
There is, however, a remedy for this. The remedy is moving meditation. There are various types of meditation, many of which people don’t consider to be meditation at all. In the Buddhist tradition, meditation is a number of activities, not a single thing. It’s helpful to think of the word “meditation” in the same way that the Western world considers the word “sport,” as a generic term for a number of separate, yet somewhat similar activities. The goal of meditation is to attain a relaxed mind that is more aware and focused on what is going on in your life the other 23 1/2 hours of your day. While the practice has been clouded in mysticism, largely because of the way it has been portrayed in the media, it doesn’t have to be. In fact, all of us engage in meditative practices without even knowing it.
One commonly practiced method of meditation is called Mindfulness Meditation, where a person directs their full and complete attention on some object or activity. The activity can be anything, as long as attention is fully focused only on the present moment. Many of us do this unintentionally when we are fully engaged in an activity and are fully focused only on that activity and nothing else. At that moment, your mind is on autopilot, you are engaged in an activity and the activity itself takes on a kind of timeless quality. Athletes, musicians, artists, and craftsmen often experienced this unintentionally. (See also “Washing Life’s Rice” Bowls,http://mindbodycoach.org/?p=487)
If you are someone who finds it difficult to meditate in the traditional manner, here are some examples of moving meditation that you may not have thought of:
⦁ Yoga in all forms and variations.
⦁ Tai chi, aikido, and most types of traditional martial arts, especially styles of kung fu and karate were the practitioners engage in moving meditation called “kata.”
⦁ Playing a musical instrument, especially when improvising, can be a great form of mindful moving meditation. Fully focusing on the process of playing and the melding of self and sound makes it moving meditation.
⦁ Every day, daily household chores can be an opportunity to practice mindful meditation. In fact, many people enjoy routine housework. If you are fortunate enough to be one of those people, then you may want to consider it as an opportunity to practice mindful, moving meditation.
⦁ Walking, combined with mindful breathing, is by far the most practical and easy to implement method of moving meditation. It has the added benefit of providing exercise for mind and body at the same time.
Walking meditation, called kinhin in the Zen tradition, is often practiced by contemplative monks to keep them physically healthy. One begins by moving slowly, seeking to find a rhythm to their movements and their breathing. After you hit that sweet spot where movement and breath get into sync, you can move at any pace you want and walk as long as you like. The goal is not to make it an effort, but to make it effortless and mind less, meaning that your mind is focused only on the activity itself and not the rest of your day, your problems, your work, or your to do list. The goal is to be fully present in the activity of rhythmic movement and breathing. Thich Nhat Hanh, a Buddhist monk and author of over 100 books on Zen, describes how it works: “Walking on this planet is a joy. Mindful walking allows us to be aware of the pleasure of walking. We can keep our steps slow, relaxed, and calm. There is no rush, no place to get to, no hurry. Mindful walking can release our sorrows and our worries and help bring peace into our body and mind.”
If you walk for exercise, or would like to begin, then moving meditation may be the way for you to combine meditation with your exercise. Don’t use headphones, leave your cell phone at home, and fully focus on the activity itself, rather than the outcome. Don’t think about why your doing it, weight loss, lowering your cholesterol, or bringing those numbers on your annual bloodwork down into the normal range. Just focus on the activity itself and the rhythmic synchronization of movement and breath in the present moment. If possible, leave the watch at home. If not, set an alarm and walk until it goes off, then return to where you started.
All of us have been aware of the health benefits of walking for a long time. Practice of moving meditation is now something that you have been made aware of. Get outside and enjoy its benefits.
“A journey of 1000 miles begins with a single step.”-Lao Tzu
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