A friend of ours recently got us Fitbits. So I have been doing a lot more walking lately. I have been walking to work and back, taking nightly walks, getting more and more into it. It takes me back to many hours walking the mountains around Okayama in my twenties.
Walking has always been for me a serious practice. In fact, I often think that my dream job is to actually just take walks with people. I have not figured that out yet!
When I am walking, I try to use it as a practice to get into my body as much as possible. Normally, when we walk we are kind of stumbling along, basically falling forward, kind of hurting our bodies, jarring our bones. What is happening is always in front of us, and it is continually in front of us. We never really get into what is happening, but rather seem to be on the outside of what is actually happening. It is a mental idea out there. It is a destination. Or it is something visual over there. But we feel distance from it. Separate. But several years ago I fell in love with finding real harmony when I walk. I hope my description here adds to your process.
Walking can be a fascinating practice in getting into the center of reality.
We have this wonderful opportunity to become one with the environment as we move through it. As reality comes to us, we join it, our presence joins it. It frames our awareness, and this great life energy centers us like a potter throwing a pot on a wheel. And we continue being more deeply centered by this ever shifting energetic pressure. Our awareness unifies, and we join more and more with what is happening. The separation of ourselves and the environment drops away. This is trying to happen all the time, as the universe is always pouring into us, guiding us how to open up to this greater harmony. When we are on the outside, thinking about ideas, the universe is there waiting for us to become it. This is natural. Even the weather craves homeostasis.
I fell in love with movement, and especially walking, by watching the Roshi walk. There is a lot of talk about embodiment these days. But Supreme embodiment is so incredibly shocking to see. Seeing him, his energy, his essence, would influence all of the energy around him, and this energy would become part of the river of his presence as he walked. His presence would influence all of the reality around him. To witness this for the first time is life changing. Seeing this type of focus in motion, really helped me decide it was worth it to stay with the Roshi for so long.
But it is not about an old master far away a long time ago. These examples only help us to discover our own process of realizing this innate capacity. When I began to do a lot of sitting, I had all of volatile energy I could not process. I felt like I was going crazy! In Japanese, we call this kofun, rising ki. I had to move to process some of this energy. Many people have deep spiritual experiences, but learning to bring them into a grounding practice is so very important. Or we can’t help anyone.
I would go for walks every day in the mountains around the monastery in the bamboo forests. The love affair of exploring how to walk with the least amount of tension, marrying the universe around me, melding with reality in each step. Instead of extending out with our awareness, when we can allow ourselves to become our steps completely, it often feels like we are going back as we go forward, as inside and outside merge into oneness. Or as Dogen put it:
“Learn the backward step that turns your light inward to illuminate your self. Body and mind of themselves will drop away, and your original face will be manifest.”
Giving myself to this practice, over and over, the distinction between myself and the trees, the wind, the insects in the flowers, finding the line of push and pull of life around me. Sensing when to push, when to pull, finding the barrier between myself and other, and allowing it it dissolve. Like being pierced by reality, shattering our small selves into this great ocean of energy.
To feel a line of energy moving up through our bodies without effort, our lower bodies are grounded, our upper bodies floating. The earth is pulling us toward it, and the heavens are pulling us upward. We are truly experiencing heaven and earth with our bodies. And if we are honest enough, one day our awareness might completely break open, like a bucket shattering, and we will look up at the moon and not know where we end and the moon begins.
So, here, today, walking out of my front door, with my silly Fitbit counting my steps. Walking is a spiritual path in itself. Or, it is a great way to bridge our sitting practice and bring it into life.
Can’t we creatively find a way to realize harmony within? Find liberation? Walking through the streets, letting go of any ideas of good or bad, isn’t this paradise? Isn’t this the land of lotuses?
Take care! Thanks for reading! Lots of love!
and still deeper
the green mountains
*Painting of Johnny Appleseed. Source unknown.