Thich Nhat Hanh: Another Walking Meditation
“People say that walking on water is a miracle, but to me, walking peacefully on the earth is the real miracle. The Earth is a miracle, each step is a miracle. Taking steps on our beautiful planet can bring real happiness.” Thich Nhat Hanh, p. 58, The Long Road Turns To Joy, a Guide to Walking Meditation, Parallax Press 1996.
For many years, I would walk around the block in my neighbor for twenty minutes before going to work at the hospital. This seems to quiet the committee meeting in my head. Putting my feet on the earth, even the pavement of the road, seems to reconnect my head to my body as I become “grounded.” Always when I am outside, I realize there is a world greater than the one I live in. There is a power greater than myself. I have trouble meditating by simply sitting, but some movement such as walking can lead me into that meditative journey.
The Vietnamese Buddhist, Thich Nhat Hanh, is one of the most well-known meditative walkers. His pocket-sized book is full of simple mindfulness exercises to think about as we walk. He introduces us to several methods of following and listening to our breath as we walk. He teaches us to be aware of the ground, our foot as it touches the ground as well as our breath. My pattern became breathing in on the right foot, breathing out on the left. This was similar to walking the labyrinth and paying close attention to the path.
In mindful walking, as we stay with our breath, there are no more rooms available for that committee to meet in our heads. Thich Nhat Hanh compares walking to eating, nourishing our bodies with each step. With each step, we massage the Earth. When the baby Buddha was born, he took seven steps, and a Lotus flower blossomed under each step. Thich Nhat Hanh suggests we image with each of our steps, a flower blossoming.
We can also practice mindful walking anywhere, between meetings, in hospitals, at airports, walking to our car. The Buddhist monk also offers several poems to recite while walking: “I have arrived, I am home, in the here, in the now. I am solid. I am free. In the ultimate I dwell.”