A reader commented about my recent blog on meditation (Blog 10/14/14) to remind me that walking, as opposed to sitting, is a form of meditation, too, and once reminded, I was quick to acknowledge he was correct. Ancient mazes were designed to induce a meditative state and walking a maze slowly can have powerful consequences.
During my retreat to a Tibetan Buddhist monastery in Berkeley, California years ago, one of the tasks set before me was to follow a maze but with a special set of instructions. I was to walk as slowly as possible, like a snail crossing a gravel bed, but in my mind, I was to imagine rushing to catch a plane and I was late. Forced to move by inches was hard enough but to goad myself to hurry mentally was a clash of purpose which, to my surprise, left me sobbing as if I were attending my own funeral. It took several minutes for me to regain my control and the lesson was one I never forgot. It was hard evidence that a disconnect between mind and body can have devastating consequences.
The salutatory benefits of mediation are well known throughout the world, though many of us think of the practice as one of sitting quietly. But as I learned at Berkeley, movement that focuses the mind also has the same therapeutic value. The November issue of More Magazine carried an interesting article on activities that are soothing to the mind. (“How Changing My Body Changed My Life, by Shelley Levitt, More Magazine, November 2014 pg. 116.) One woman found inner strength by learning to fly on a trapeze. She hadn’t thought of the activity as a meditation but, simply put, “If you don’t stay in the moment, if you don’t listen and wait, you fall… Instead of anticipating I just am.” Another woman learned how to focus the mind by pole dancing. “I stopped thinking about the errands I needed to do. The mind chatter was quiet, and I was present in mind and body…”Ibid pg. 124)
I believe my writing has a meditative effect as well. When I sit down to compose, my connection with real time and mind time disappears. I arise from my desk two or three hours later and am surprised I’ve been at my task more than a few minutes.
I’m grateful to the reader who commented that walking was a meditation for it reminded me of what is at the heart of the practice. We strive for that elusive mind-body connection.