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Thursday, June 25, 2009

Walk Mindfully

I used to work in a temple.

The courtyard there was laid out in concrete squares, with grass growing between them. It was designed to resemble the pattern of rice fields often seen in the Asian countryside. Thus, walking up the courtyard could be a kind of "cultivation" (like growing rice, get it?)

This was accomplished by walking slowly back and forth up the courtyard, using it like a kind of labyrinth. It could actually take upwards of an hour to walk a very short distance!

One was to walk with hands folded in front of the belly, eyes downcast, at a Tai-Chi-like pace, placing the feet carefully and concentrating on every part of the body.

When you think about it, most of us walk in a kind of controlled fall. We lean forward, push off with the rear foot, and catch ourselves on the forward foot, before we fall on our face. Then repeat.

But walking can be much more. Right now, get up. Get ready. Breathe. Now take a slow step while you try to examine what each part of your body is doing.

Do you notice that if you, say, step out with your left foot, you have to lean to the right, putting your weight over your right foot?

Walking isn't as easy as you thought, is it? The first time I tried this, I fell down!

There are lots of organized ways to "walk mindfully": labyrinths, garden paths, temple courses.

But start by just walking slowly across your living room (without falling down).

Then try to be mindful whenever and wherever you walk.

You'll be happier.

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