Guidelines for Posture
- On a comfortable, firm cushion or chair – sit with the spine upright, with its natural curves allowing the pelvis to rock forward a bit. If on a chair, place your feet flat on the floor. If on a cushion, cross your lets, resting one foot on top of the opposite thigh, the other foot under the other thigh – yogi style.
- The back of the neck is relaxed, allowing the chin to come down and inward. The face and jaw are natural and relaxed. Lips should be slightly parted and tongue resting against the upper palate.
- The arms and shoulders are relaxed. Let the body be warm and heavy.
- The hands rest on the thighs or in the lap.
- The gaze is forward and slightly down with a soft focus, directed approximately one body length in front of you. Or you can do mindful meditation with the eyes closed.
- The chest/heart area is open. The abdomen is relaxed.
- Take three breaths from the diaphragm.
- Rock slightly in all directions to find your center of gravity and balance.
Guidelines of Attention
- The point of meditation is not to blank out the mind or empty it of thoughts. Rather it is to develop the qualities of attention, appreciation and kindness through mindful, non-judgmental moment-to-moment awareness.
- Make a clear and precise beginning to your practice: Ring a bell, say a short prayer or aspiration.
- Notice whatever sensations are present in your body: The pressure where your feet or legs touch the floor or cushion, the sensations of your hands touching each other or your legs, the feel of your clothes. If you notice any obvious tension in the body, see if it’s possible to soften and release it.
- Open your attention to any sounds that may be present. Just notice the sound and the process of hearing without needing to “name” the sound or figure out what is creating it. Notice that sounds arise, are heard, and pass away without any effort on your part; they are just part of a constantly changing flow of experience.
- Take a few deep breaths again and notice where you experience the sensations of breathing: It may be in the flow of air in and out of the nostrils, or in the rise and fall of the chest or the abdomen. Then let your breath be from the diaphragm and feel the sensations of your diaphragm breathing. Release into each breath as you noticing how the soft sensations of breathing come and go.
- After a few breaths, your mind will wander. When you notice this, no matter how long or short a time the mind has been away, simply come back to the next breath. Or, before returning to the breath, you may softly and silently “name” where your attention has been – hearing, planning, itching – and then directly return to feel the next breath. It may help your concentration to silently, gently count the breaths. Count “one” on the first exhalation, “two” on the second exhalation until you reach ten breaths, and then begin again with “one.”
- When feelings of restlessness, pain or boredom arise, accept them, breathe into them and return to the meditation as you would any other thought process.
- When ending the meditation, end with an out breath and dissolve your awareness into the space you are in.
- Say to yourself – “That was good.”
We want to put our attention simultaneously on our mind, our breath, and our body, all connected. Usually they are in different places – for example, our body may be moving in one place, but our mind is off somewhere else. Walking meditation is moving through space; It is a sense that we are not just an individual walking, but we are walking on a journey through the space of the environment and the space is walking with you. It is not just the tree, grass, etc. but it is a sense of openness. When walking, we are not just feeling our body, but feeling the environment.
We are feeling a sense of being on a journey, like circumambulating the world or a stupa, which is a Buddhist monument used as an object of worship. From the viewpoint of Vajrayana Buddhism or of enlightenment, walking meditation is to experience that we are walking through our world, our estate, our kingdom: as opposed to just thinking that we are alone. We are with others, with the trees and so on.
We are on a journey with others on our planet. We are not watching, but participating with the world, not shutting ourselves off from it. With sitting meditation, there can be a problem where we want to shut ourselves off from the world.
What is important is to experience the journey with others on the path, just like in life, like being in the Garden of Eden.
Walking meditation is more than a stretch between sitting sessions. It is a profound practice that combines both stillness and movement. In stillness, we are supported by the ground. In movement, we learn to maintain our center of gravity as our legs alternate back and forth. Our feet connect with the ground and the earth supports us. We notice the pressure of our feet as they push off against the ground. The earth accepts our feet and we sense a gentle, firmness. Inspiration and technique come together. We discover the natural rhythm of breath and movement. We walk slowly but we do not become robots, stiff and mechanical. We experience a fluidity of movement as we open up to the way our bodies inherently want to walk.
Walking meditation can be a main practice; call it “walking mahamudra” Empasize that it is not a secondary practice. Many styles, varying the pace: Slow; Fast; Real slow on a path, such as the one we will create in our garden.
Walking is not done just because you cannot sit. It is a first class practice, as important as sitting. Buddha awoke because he walked between sittings. There are many pictures of him walking. Walking is good for fluidity; sitting develops a quiet mind. Like mahamudra, there is a continuity of movement and stillness.
The idea of “holding our seat,” or being mindful continues throughout our daily lives. We maintain our dignity and humor with the same lightness of touch we use dealing with our thoughts. Holding our seat doesn’t mean we are stiff, trying to become like rocks; the whole idea is learning to be flexible. The way we deal with ourselves and our thoughts is the same way we deal with the world.
When we begin to meditate, the first thing we realize is how wild our mind is, how wild our life is. But once we begin to have the quality of being tamed, when we can sit with ourselves, we realize there’s a vast wealth of possibility in front of us. Meditation is accepting who and what we really are; we find the richness of what already exists. Discovering that richness is a moment-to-moment process and as we continue to practice, our awareness becomes more precise, spacious and accommodating.
Reflect that “My mind is as spacious as the sky and my activity is a fine as flour.”
This mindfulness actually envelops our whole life. It is the best way to appreciate our world, to appreciate the sacredness of everything. We add mindfulness and all of a sudden, the whole situation becomes alive. This practice soaks into everything that we do; there’s nothing left out. We become in touch with our actual lived experience.