You Have Arrived
When you walk, arrive with every step. That is walking meditation. There’s nothing else to it.
One of the most profound teachings is also the shortest: “I have arrived.” When we return to our breathing, we return to the present moment, our true home. There’s no need for us to struggle to arrive somewhere else. We know our final destination is the cemetery. Why are we in a hurry to get there? Why not step in the direction of life, which is in the present moment? If we practice walking meditation for even a few days, we will undergo a deep transformation and learn how to enjoy peace in each moment. We smile, and countless beings throughout the cosmos smile back at us—our peace is so deep. Everything we think, feel, and do has an effect on our ancestors and future generations and reverberates throughout the cosmos.
Walking on Planet Earth
Walking on this planet is a very wonderful thing to do. When astronauts return to Earth, one of the things that they’re most happy to do is to take a walk. Coming back to their home, they can enjoy the grasses, the plants, the flowers, the animals, and the birds with each step. How long do you think they enjoy walking on the Earth after they’ve returned from space? I’d guess that the first ten days are wonderful. But eventually they get used to it, and maybe a year later they don’t feel as happy as they did in the first few months after coming home. Every time we take a step on this Earth, we can appreciate the solid ground underneath us.
We’re in such a rush, looking for happiness in one place and then another. We walk like sleepwalkers, without any enjoyment of what we are actually doing. We are walking, but in our minds we are already doing something else: planning, organizing, worrying. There is no more need to run. Every time we return our attention to our breath and our steps, it’s as if we wake up. Every step brings us back to the here and the now. We can touch the Earth and see the sky and notice all the wonders in between. In each step there is the possibility of mindfulness, concentration, and insight.
To enjoy walking meditation isn’t difficult at all. You don’t need ten years of practicing mindful walking to be enlightened. You need only a few seconds. You just need to become aware that you’re walking. Awareness is already enlightenment. Each of us is capable of being mindful of our in-breath and our out-breath. When you breathe in, be aware that you’re breathing in. Be aware that you have a body, that you’re breathing in and nourishing that body. Be aware that your feet are strong enough for you to enjoy walking. That is also enlightenment. When you breathe out, be aware of the air leaving your body. Be aware that you are alive. This awareness can bring you so much happiness.
Walking in Beauty
You can walk mindfully on the busiest street. Sometimes, though, it’s helpful to practice in a park or some other beautiful, quiet place. Walk slowly, but not so slowly that you draw too much attention to yourself. This is a kind of invisible practice. Enjoy nature and your own serenity without making others uncomfortable or making a show of it. If you see something that you want to stop and appreciate—the blue sky, the hills, a tree, or a bird—just stop, and continue to breathe in and out mindfully. If we don’t continue to breathe consciously, sooner or later our thinking will settle back in, and the bird and the tree will disappear.
Invest your Whole Body
Invest one hundred percent of yourself into making a step. Touching the ground with your foot, you produce the miracle of being alive. You make yourself real and the Earth real with each step. The practice should be very strong and determined. You are protecting yourself from the habit energy that is always pushing you to run and to get lost in thinking. Bring all your attention down to the soles of your feet, and touch the Earth as though you are kissing the Earth with your feet. Each step is like the seal of an emperor on a decree. Walk as though you imprint your solidity, your freedom, and your peace on the Earth.
A Contract with the Staircase
Make an agreement with the flight of stairs you use most often. Decide to always practice walking meditation on those stairs, going up and going down; don’t climb those stairs absentmindedly. If you commit to this and then realize you have climbed several steps in forgetfulness, go back down and climb up them again.
Walking and Talking
Often when we walk, we are already talking to someone next to us, or thinking of what we have to do next, or even staring at our phone, not looking at where we are or where we’re going. When you walk, try to just walk. Try not to walk and talk at the same time. If you need to say something, stop altogether and say it. It won’t take too much more time. Then, after you finish talking, you can resume walking.
We Don’t Walk Alone
When we walk, we’re not walking alone. Our parents and ancestors are always walking with us. They’re present in every cell of our bodies. So each step that brings us healing and happiness also brings healing and happiness to our parents and ancestors. Every mindful step has the power to transform us and all our ancestors within us, including our animal, plant, and mineral ancestors. We don’t walk for ourselves alone. When we walk, we walk for our family and for the whole world.
Walking Instead of Driving
Sometimes we don’t really need to use the car, but because we want to get away from ourselves, we go down and start the car. If we recite the phrase, “Before starting the car, I know where I am going,” it can be like a flashlight—we may see that we don’t need to go anywhere. You cannot escape yourself, wherever you go. Sometimes it’s better to turn the engine off and go out for a walk. It may be more pleasant to do.
Walking is a Celebration
When you walk, if you are aware that you are alive, that is already enlightenment. You are aware that you have a body; that is already enlightenment. You are aware that your feet are strong enough for you to enjoy walking; that is also enlightenment. When you walk, it can be a celebration. When you breathe like that, you are celebrating life.