Sunday, January 28, 2007

Mindfulness Meditation: Walking and Sitting

Inspired by the teachings and practice of Thich Nhat Hanh

“Your Steps are Most Important: What activity is most important in your life? To pass an exam, get a car or a house, or get a promotion in your career? There are so many people who have passed exams, who have bought cars and houses, who have gotten promotions, but still find themselves without peace of mind, without joy, and without happiness. The most important thing in life is to find this treasure, and then to share it with other people and with all beings. In order to have peace and joy, you must succeed in having peace within each of your steps. Your steps are the most important thing. They decide everything.”
“Your half-smile and your peaceful steps are bright and shining pearls. They are beautiful but they are separate. The breath is the string that brings them together into a necklace, without a single gap between them. Be conscious of your breath and your walking meditation will be truly fruitful.”
“Walk more slowly than you usually do, but not too slowly, while breathing normally. Do not try to control your breathing. Walk along this way for a few minutes. Then notice how many steps you take as your lungs fill and how many steps you take as they empty. In this way, your attention includes both breath and steps. You are mindful of both….Your half-smile brings calmness and delight to your steps and your breath….After a few hours of serious practice, you will find that the four of them—the breath, the counting, the steps, and the half-smile—blend together in a marvelous balance of mindfulness. This is equanimity, created by the practice of walking meditation. The four elements of breathing, counting, stepping, and the half-smile become one.”
[From A Guide to Walking Meditation, by Thich Nhat Hanh.]

Sitting Posture
“Sit or lie down in a way that allows your body to rest. Sitting, your head and spine form a straight line. Relax all your muscles. Find a way of sitting that allows you to sit for at least 20 minutes without becoming too stiff or tired. As soon as you sit down, pay attention to your breath. Then notice your posture, a little bit everywhere. Relax the muscles in your face. If you are angry or worried, those muscles will be tense. Smile lightly, and you will relax hundreds of muscles in your face. Then notice your shoulders, and let go of the tension there. Don’t try too hard. Just breathe mindfully, and scan your whole body.”
Mindfulness of Breathing
“Breathing in, I know I am breathing in. Breathing out, I know I am breathing out.”
“The object of mindfulness is your in-breath and your out-breath, and nothing else. Observe the reality of your in-breath all throughout its duration. Stay at one with your out-breath all the way through”
“You don’t need to make an effort to stop your thinking. Just by concentrating on your breathing one hundred percent, your thinking will quiet itself. You don’t need to force yourself to be mindful. Just enjoy your breathing.”
“A period of sitting meditation is time worth living. Don’t interfere with your breathing. Breathing takes place by itself. Just light the lamp of mindfulness and shine it on your breathing. Don’t modify, bend, or make your breathing the way you think it is supposed to be. If your in-breath is short, let it be short. If your out-breath is long, let it be long. Become aware of your in-breath and out-breath as they are….After a few minutes you will notice an improvement in the quality of your breathing, and a feeling of well-being will be born in you.”
Mindfulness and Concentration
“Mindfulness makes our eyes, our heart, our non-toothache, the moon, and the trees deep and beautiful. And when we touch our suffering with mindfulness, we begin to transform it. Mindfulness is like a mother holding her baby in her arms and caring for her baby’s pain. When our pain is held by mindfulness it loses some of its strength….
Mindfulness recognizes what is there, and concentration allows you to be deeply present with whatever it is. Concentration is the ground of happiness. If you live twenty-four hours a day in mindfulness and concentration, one day is a lot.”
Quotations from Thich Nhat Hanh, in The Mindfulness Bell, Issue 23, pages 1,4.