Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Spring in Your Step

Another gorgeous day! The breeze is soft, the sun is warm and mellow. I hope I wake up on every day that's like this and appreciate it. I took advantage of the fantastic weather yesterday and headed out to Mckensie Pond near Saranac Lake for some bouldering (climbing without ropes). It was the perfect temperature there and the rocks were dry and warm. It was a really good opportunity to practice being present. There I was sitting on my crash pad with my hands in front of me on the rock, getting ready to pull myself up, and for a moment I really noticed my hands. They were right in front of me so I took a minute just to focus on them. Such simple but complex things, 10 digits made of 3 parts which lead down to hands which are a mish-mash of delicate bones and tendons. There actually isn't a ton of muscle in your hands, most of the muscles that contract your fingers reside in your forearms. And the more I focused on my hands and how I was about to use them to lift most of my body weight off the ground the more present I became. It's such a wonderful, peaceful experience when I can do that.
But I have to admit I had the advantage, being out in the middle of the woods with no distractions. It's harder to have these moments in the office (like today) when no matter how present you want to be you have a pile of files you need to work on for the future and faxes rolling in quickly and a phone that likes to ring. So accepting that staying present in the real world is a challenge I thought I'd write up a little bit about walking meditation. This is a great practice for the beautiful weather we're having and it's not nearly as fidgit inspiring as sitting meditation so I'll give you the run down on it:
Walking meditation begins with standing still for a moment with your eyes closed and moving your attention into your body. First notice how your feet are connecting to the ground and the little movements your body is making to keep you standing upright. Really try to notice how the soles of your feet feel and how the rest of each foot feels too with their socks and their shoes around them. When you're ready open your eyes and set your gaze (that means looking with out intensity) 2 meters ahead of you. When you are ready you can begin walking. Your focus only returns to your sight when you need to move around something or stop for something. The rest of you time your focus stays in your feet. There are all kinds of different things you can focus on here: The feeling of your foot as it rolls from back to front. The different pressures on different parts of your feet. The tightening and releasing of muscles in your feet as you move. Try to keep the foot relaxed, not tense as you move forward. There's nothing you need to change about your stride, or the style of walk you have. Every time you start thinking about something other than your feet return back to your foot and explore all the interesting sensations there.

And that's it, you're practicing walking meditation. Even if you only do it for 5 minutes out of your whole walk you're still going to get some benefits. A calmer mind. A greater appreciation of the moment you are in. Less stress.
This beautiful weather and the opportunity to walk are tools we can use to our advantage, why not use them?