Walking Meditation Nearly Takes a Dive

Bumping into the wall and walking  to the edge of a swimming pool with eyes firmly shut is not the best way to do a walking meditation.

I found that out when I finished swimming in the Olympic size pool at the LA Fitness gym in a section of Philadelphia recently. I leisurely finished 36 laps (that’s a half-mile, mostly swimming on my back because I never learned the proper breathing technique for the breast stroke. I gulp too much of the pool when I push my self  to be a “real” swimmer. Give me the back stroke eight out of nine strokes any old day).

I spoiled my self in the spa, meditating in the hot waters, feeling myself back in the womb and safe despite the turbulent waters gushing on, over and under all of my body parts. Now, as I exited the whirlpool, I had extra time  to perform a Zen-like practice that I have never really liked, but heard could do wonders for me if I persevere at it enough: Walking Meditation.

You extend your right foot first (don’t ask me why, but the Buddhist Monk I studied with at a recent workshop advised us to follow his lead). As you step forward, you inhale a long breath. All of your weight is resting on your back foot, your left foot, and as you slowly, ever so slowly, begin to lift that foot, you start to exhale, gently placing the left foot down and removing the bulk of your weight off the other foot. Your right foot. Got that?

By focusing on the weight and the feel of each foot lifting and coming in contact with the ground, you are better able to avoid the racing of thoughts from your mind that seem to constantly intrude on your breath, the anchor for your meditative posturing. Focusing on your breath allows you to be calmer, to relax your shoulders, and feel looser with each succeeding step.

I took it one step further, to pardon my pun.

I shut my eyes.

Now, shutting one’s eyes can work if you are in a large group, say 50 people as I was with over a week ago at an Omega Institute workshop on PTSD. You have people in front and behind you and you can pretty much “feel” where they are in relationship to where you are, even with your eyes closed. At least for a couple, three or four steps, that is.

I would not recommend any one to do this alone, particularly on a thin rubber mat running between a concrete wall and the edge of the pool.

You guessed it! I hit both in the span of just a few steps, all of which I believed were straight forward paced steps but actually turned out to be meandering, off the center of the mat steps to a world beyond.

My left elbow struck the wall as I staggered forward, trying to keep my balance as I slowly placed one foot ahead of the other. What is it with the aging process and the lack of balance? I have a hearing problem and some ringing in the ears, but I still feel relatively healthy and physically vibrant. Why am I crashing into walls when ever I try this meditation technique?

I recovered, however, and adjusted my internal compass, intentionally moving with my eyes closed to the opposite direction. Three steps later, my right sandal and the foot within it feels nothing beneath it, and I pull back before stepping off the mat and into the pool where a young woman is swimming.

Feeling a little peculiar, I explain to her about this method of meditation, and how I had my eyes closed and how I am usually more coordinated than I am now, and she just smiles, adjusting her swimming cap and getting ready to push-off for another lap. I give up trying to explain it to her. Hell, she is young, might still be in the late 20s or early 30s. What does she know about inner ear problems and the imbalance of my aging life?

So, I bring my two hands together, palms facing each other with both wrists against my chest where the heart resides and I bow, saying: “Namaste.”

 She smiles, looks up from the pool, and responds in kind, “Namaste.”

That more than made up for any awkwardness I felt in my new way of walking.

Hours later, I can still feel the smile it brought to my face.

11 comments on “Walking Meditation Nearly Takes a Dive

  1. […] slow. Begin a “walking meditation.” (For more, see Walking Meditation Nearly Takes a Dive) Conscious of only one step at a time, each foot easing up and stepping over and down to the soft […]

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  2. nemeIsosy says:

    Lots of guys talk about this issue but you said some true words.

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  3. David Ezra says:

    Hello, I have begun the practice of solitary blind-walking meditation after considering the meditation habits of classical monks. I am not Buddhist, but the power and peace I find in this form of meditation is incomparable with anything else.

    About once or twice a week (avoiding any kind of deadlock routine), I set out alone into my neighborhood bearing a Buddhist tea lamp which I hold by a chain that is older than I and almost as tall.
    When I am able to clear my mind, relax, and forget my surroundings I find that I am able to walk long distances with my eyes closed. The only thing I “see” is the wavering light that the tealamp emits.
    Sometimes I will find myself walking into something such as the road, a wall, or a tree…but the candle helps to keep me aware of my surroundings in this reality while I am travelling out of my mind.

    I find that the more I practice this form of meditation, the longer I am able to maintain my focus on the candle.
    I generally do such an extreme meditation only when I feel it absolutely necessary in dire times, for the amount of mistrust and oddity I must surely generate on my blind-walks would become notorious otherwise.
    It is dangerous, and I would not recommend it to anyone who cannot exist in two places at once.
    I would consider it akin to astral projection, but the seperation of awareness within oneself can cause severe tragedy in this reality when you are walking around blind with a burning candle in the middle of the night. Yet the candle I feel is important as a bridge to and from my mind. Without it, the danger is exponentially heightened.

    The lamp and candle are very much their own entity, alive in every sense; breathing air, eating wax, and communicating with light. Once I find the balance between us, and if I can maintain inner silence long enough, a certain power is built inside that knows no equal. With it, anything is possible.

    -David Ezra, age 20
    ezran@pdxdotedu

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  4. Ruby Cantu says:

    I would attempt this, but I’m afraid I would have a fall…I need to find my zen.

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  5. Belle says:

    What a great description! I love the thought of slowing down and the corresponding halting of the mind (or so one hopes, lol). I perform a meditation that combines a little Tai Chi type movement with the sitting meditation part. Part of the process involves watching the mind and various thought forms that arise.

    It is such a wonderful way of turning within and discovering that stillness that transcends all thoughts…

    Thank you for this excellent reminder – too often I choose to sleep in or go to bed skipping this practice. Even a few times a week makes a profound difference!

    Love your parting exchange of namaste!! I would be smiling quite a bit from that myself!

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  6. Thank you for your lovely post about walking meditation. I have practiced this in the woods (with others) and at a local retreat house. In both instances, eyes were wide open. There were no stipulations as to which foot to start with or instructions on breathing. The only advice was to “just walk,” feeling every movement deliberately. It was exhilerating!

    My most memorable Kin-Hin (walking meditation) was years ago in deep December at a retreat house on the night of a major ice storm in the northeast. The trees looked like they were made of crystal.

    The morning after the storm, a brave band of 4 set out into the woods together in a single file walking meditation. To this day, I recall the sound of the iced snow-cover crunching as we walked. I was more at peace than I’ve been in a long while.

    I am glad that you didn’t get hurt from the incident with eyes closed by the pool. However, I am guessing that for the split second that you came in contact with the wall, you were 100% mindful,and that is the goal of the practice ( albeit, a painful way to deliver on the goal. Thank you again.

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    • contoveros says:

      Peace can be found in the oddest places . . . and moments.

      One of my best memories involves listening to the birds and smelling the freshness of the air as I walked around a bombed out crater in Vietnam. I still have yet to experience such a calm and relaxing conscious moment in my life, as I did then. Everything was alive and at one with all. I was in awe of nature.
      michael j

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