On meditation: walking meditation one. 6

Jedediah Higgins House, Princeton, NJ, Interior, Buddha and lotus wall piece, cc-by lemasney

Jedediah Higgins House, Princeton, NJ, Interior, Buddha and lotus wall piece, cc-by lemasney

So, this blog is about nothing if not health. One of my healthiest new practices has become meditation. As I’ve said on these pages before, I am a scientist, a practitioner, a realist, a humanist, and a naturalist. I respect, but do not follow, any organized religion, but I consider myself a scholar of many, as they have much to offer in the way of morality, guidance, and inner peace. Also, I like to think that I am open to what works, and meditation works for me. Much written about Buddha, Jesus Christ, Abraham, Allah, and others makes a lot of sense to me. They’re all pretty nice peeps, most of the time, and it seems like they all knew something about meditation.

So here I wanted to talk a bit about what I am trying to do with meditation, my recent practice, some techniques and methods I’ve learned about, and ones I’m excited to try in the future.

So, what is meditation, what is it for, how do you do it, and why bother?

Meditation is practicing focus. Meditation is clearing away chaos. Meditation is centering. Meditation is exercise for the mind. Meditation helps you gain patience. Meditation helps you work through issues methodically. Meditation helps you become more you, and less else. Meditation creates a calm place for you to see the world without distractions. Meditation is the opposite of chaos. Meditation reveals delusion. Meditation differs for all who do it, even within schools where there is a framework. The meditation I describe below differs for you and me, and differs for others. The results will differ too, but it is more likely, if practiced regularly, that we will end up in the same place: more relaxed, more focused, more calm, more happy with what is. Does it make me perfect? Absolutely not. I struggle with guilt, pain, distractions, and temptations every day. Meditation makes it easier for me to deal with these and dismiss them, though. There are claims that it helps to improve your senses, immune system, and self-image. I have no idea about these. The only evidence I have, personally, is of more mental clarity, calmness, and focus.

My most recent meditation technique is simple.

My method is to go on a walk of about an hour’s length. As I walk, I breathe. I count my breaths on my fingers, one inhale and one exhale is one breath. I count on my four fingers and then start over again, as I breathe, physically counting to four, over and over, without noting the numbers, just the fingers. I also, in my mind, say the word breathing. As I inhale, I say breathe- and as I exhale, I say -ing. I sometimes become distracted as I walk, by cars, birds, interesting pieces of metal and trash. I note these, saying ‘distraction’, or ‘concern’, or ‘listening’, and then quickly return to my mantra of ‘breathing’. I usually look down at the ground as I walk, my eyes resting on the ever-changing pattern and chaos of the asphalt or concrete or dirt path. I try to ignore this visual information, as I can, and use it only not to walk into the path of others, cars, or other dangers; to stay on the path. The only other practice is to gather a rhythm. I usually walk four steps to a breath. This is it.

Many variations exist on this meditation, some where you might use the rhythm or counting or path as the main focus, as opposed to the breathing. I believe these would be equally beneficial. During the hour of this practice, I have often spontaneously smiled wide, at least once, by no conscious thought, but by the freeing act of mindlessness. I did this today.

Some other techniques and methods I’m looking forward to trying

Other techniques need no movement at all, but rather a quiet space and closed eyes. Some require conscious, concentrated focus on a particular problem or issue, focusing on the facts and feelings of the issue, back and forth and back, again and again, always returning to the issue until one resolves all facts and feelings, or at least comprehends them. Some methods focus on literally nothingness, no mental activity, visualisation, mantra, or activity. This is, maybe, the most common stereotypical technique that many think of when they hear the word meditation, and perhaps the one that causes most to dismiss meditation as potentially valuable, but difficult to practice. this is my opinion, but this does not mean I will not try it, when my mind is ready. Anyone who has ever actively tried to think of nothing and nothingness discovers how very out of keeping with the style of our contemporary world it is.  This is maybe the best reason for it.

Happiness to you, in whatever forms it comes.

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6 thoughts on “On meditation: walking meditation one.

  • Ryuutei

    Great article.
    You can try watching the ceiling, the light patterns of randomness in the painting (or false-ceiling) ; maybe you don’t like that randomness in things… but I think it’s good, there is no meanings in such vision so emptying the mind is easier.
    I also like when closing my eyes and seeing the afterimage disapear, then I’m not sure how do I do but in that moment my mind is empty. :p

    • lemasney

      @Ry, I’ve heard about this as a technique too, using the afterimages after closing your eyes, and simply doing the work of moving those images to black, and black, and black. Love this.

      • Ryuutei

        yeah me too.
        I didn’t know it was a real technique…. (as usual) but it’s because I’ve stopped reading those kind of books after reading some commentaries of the tao de jing.

        I like Erin’s way too, having peaceful moments, such as we can’t figure out the time pass.

  • Erin O'Bryan

    I often say I can’t meditate my mind won’t allow it but then I realize all the times my kids will catch me just standing at a window staring out asking what I’m looking at for so long, and I tell them nothing, and it’s true I’m just there in time with no thoughts at all, it’s very peaceful to me. I’ve always been able to “zone” out but always had that mindset I can’t meditate, I think I do it a lot and just don’t know it.

    • lemasney

      @Erin, I think that you are correct. I think that we all meditate unconsciously, because that is the most natural state of the unconscious. I think that many meditate and do not call it meditation. Consciously working to bring that state forward is the part that people are reluctant of, or un-recognizant of, but with some practice (I’ve been at it loosely about 2-3 weeks) it is possible, and incredibly valuable.